New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis confirmed on Tuesday that the team will use the franchise tag designation on impending free agent tight end Jimmy Graham if the two sides can't agree to a long-term contract.
Loomis also said the team will tag Graham as a tight end, a designation that is critical to how much compensation the fourth-year player will receive. Last year, the difference between the tight end tag and the receiver tag was $4.5 million.
#saints gm Mickey Loomis said the team will franchise tag Jimmy Graham if the ten has to. In other words, he's not going anywhere.— WWL-TV Sports (@wwltvsports) January 21, 2014
"Isn't that what we drafted him as? Isn't that what he made the Pro Bowl as? That's what we see him as, a tight end. ... That's what makes him valuable," Loomis said. "We're going to franchise him if that's necessary. [But] we're a long ways from that. I don't know if it's worth discussing right now.”
The franchise-tag deadline is March 3. Loomis made his comments during Tuesday morning's Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala.
"We're in the early part of the process, and obviously we want to have Jimmy back, and he wants to be back. And so we just have to go through this process,” Loomis said.
In 2013, Graham lined up as a receiver on 67 percent of his snaps.
"Look, the tight end has always been part of the passing game," Loomis said. "And he's part of the running game. So he's part of both. So are receivers, so are running backs. I don't know what the process for that is. And I'm not really worried about it. I'm more worried about developing and coming to terms on a long-term contract."
If Graham does not agree to a long-term extension, the decision about whether he is compensated under the franchise tag as a tight end or receiver could come down to the decision of an arbitrator. Graham caught 16 touchdown passes in 2013.