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Jimmy Graham not thrilled with Saints’ threat to use franchise tag on him

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(USA Today Sports Images)

It's hard to imagine any NFL player being that happy with the franchise tag.

You get an average of the top five salaries at your position, which is all well and good, but it's for just one year. Players good enough to get the franchise tag are usually looking for a much larger multi-year deal.

That's what New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham wants, but he might have to settle for the franchise tag instead. And he's not too happy about it.

General manager Mickey Loomis said the Saints will give Graham the franchise tag if a long-term deal can't be reached. That shouldn't be a shock, but it still disappointed Graham, who is at the Pro Bowl.

"That's real unfortunate," Graham told NFL.com.

"I'm not keen on the franchise tag, that would be really unfortunate, but that is really all I have to say about that one."

Graham's displeasure to NFL.com was inevitable. And Graham's situation will be even more uncomfortable than most of these player/team battles over the franchise tag.

Graham isn't a traditional tight end, but will he be treated as a tight end or receiver for franchise tag purposes? There's a huge difference. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune the franchise numbers for 2014 are projected to be about $6.7 million for a tight end and $11.5 million for a receiver. That's a $4.8 million difference and the Saints are already digging in.

"This business about what position he is? I think he's a tight end," Loomis told the New Orleans Times-Picayune this week. "That's where we drafted him, that's where we play him.

"In our view he's a tight end. That's what makes him valuable."

This might get ugly. Graham is one of the Saints' best players, an elite pass-catcher no matter what his position designation is. The Saints wouldn't be the same without Graham, who had 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns last year.

Perhaps the two sides can agree on a long-term deal. Percy Harvin signed a five-year deal worth $67 million with Seattle last offseason and Mike Wallace signed a five-year, $60 million deal. Graham is more valuable than either and his deal would have to go well beyond those. And if that doesn't happen, the Saints will tag him, likely for $6.7 million.

No wonder the acrimony has already begun.

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