Jimmy Graham, Saints reach agreement on long-term contract

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints and their ambiguous pass catcher have finally reached a deal just hours before the deadline.

Turns out all that arguing over what position Jimmy Graham plays was kind of a waste of time.

The arbitrator-appointed tight end has agreed to a long-term contract with the New Orleans Saints just hours before the Tuesday afternoon deadline to do so.

UPDATE 9:43 a.m. ET: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the deal is worth $40 million over four years, with $21 million guaranteed. That gives Graham the highest average annual salary among NFL tight ends, though the six-year, $54 million contract Rob Gronkowski signed with the New England Patriots in 2012 remains the highest total value.

Graham made the announcement Tuesday morning on Twitter and Schefter has confirmed it.

Had Graham and the Saints not been able to reach an agreement by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the prolific pass catcher would have had to play the 2014 season under the franchise tag, which designates a one-year, $7.035 million contract. It's been four and a half months since New Orleans tagged Graham, and the two sides needed every bit of that time to make a deal.

A good bit of that delay spawned from the argument over what position Graham should be franchised as. Eventually, an arbitrator designated he should be paid as a tight end, which comes with a salary of roughly $5 million less than that of a wide receiver.

The new contract renders that argument, as well as the appeal Graham filed on Monday, a moot point. Sources told USA Today that the appeal was procedural, meant to protect Graham in case contract talks sputtered out in the eleventh hour.

Nevertheless, the arbitrator's ruling has set a precedent. As the NFL continues to shift towards a passing league and as athletic, pass-catching tight ends become more prevalent, the argument raised by Graham will only increase in frequency.

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