Although the New Orleans Saints emerged on the winning side of this week's ruling in the Jimmy Graham grievance hearing, the club has not pulled or reduced it's multi-year offer to the tight end. Graham has yet to appeal the decision, and has until next weekend to do so.
Regardless, as it stands, the Saints have kept their most recent offer on the table for Graham, which would see him earn about $9.5 million per year, making him the league's highest-paid tight end, and the highest-paid tight end in NFL history.
Despite seemingly holding all the cards following arbitrator Stephen Burbank's ruling, a source tells Profootballtalk.com that the Saints have not reduced the terms of the offer. New Orleans understood that Graham was acting on behalf of his best business interests, while the team was taking a similar approach, designating him their franchise player under the tag which would see him earn just over $7 million in 2014. Graham would have earned over $12 million under the tag had Burbank ruled in his favor and designated him as a receiver, so the Saints' offer certainly must seem more appealing now to the former Miami Hurricane than it did several weeks and months ago. In other words, there is no bad blood between the two parties, and negotiations should heat up with the July 15 deadline to get a deal done quickly approaching. Jimmy Graham has an offer on the table.
As PFT notes, it would be difficult for Graham to reject a proposal that would see him earn $9.5 million annually, with a large portion of guaranteed money likely to be front-loaded into the deal. If a deal is not struck by next weekend, Graham could choose to appeal Burbank's ruling to a three-person panel, a right he holds per the league's collective bargaining agreement.
Two years ago, Burbank ruled in Quarterback Drew Brees' favor, when the Saints' signal-caller was disputing his own franchise tag. Brees had already been hit with the tag in 2005 following the expiry of his rookie deal with the San Diego Chargers. The Saints and Brees ultimately came to terms on the eve of their deadline that summer, and the likelihood is that history will repeat itself as they try and work out a similar agreement with Graham.
Jimmy Graham caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and a league-high 16 touchdowns in 2013. A two-time Pro Bowler, he has emerged as one of, if not the most dangerous pass-catching threats in the game, and has tallied at least 85 receptions the last three years running. Whether or not an appeal is launched, there could still be further haggling by Graham and agent Jimmy Sexton in an attempt to get more guaranteed money or spike the annual salary closer to $10 million, but to this point in time, the Saints have shown no hesitation to make their 2010 3rd round pick the league's most well-compensated tight end.