Just because an arbitrator ruled that Jimmy Graham is a tight end -- not a wide receiver -- when it comes to the franchise tag, it doesn't mean that his contract situation has been finalized. Although he could play out the season under the franchise tender, the New Orleans Saints still have until July 15 to ink him to an extension and other teams can get into the mix by signing him to an offer sheet.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Graham's agent, Jimmy Sexton, and general manager Mickey Loomis will be starting at "ground zero" in negotiations.
If talks stall, there may be several teams interested in signing him to an offer sheet.
"Reiterating: there are a good half dozen teams preparing to make runs at Graham should talks between him and Saints falter," tweeted Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman.
If any of those franchises actually made an offer that the Saints failed to match, that team would owe the Saints two first-round picks. Not surprisingly, that appears unlikely to happen.
"We’ve heard of none that actually will, or that even might try to land a guy who will have missed the entire offseason program preceding his first year with a new team," wrote Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
Florio added that teams could quickly step up if there is buzz from Graham's camp that he's willing to sign an offer sheet elsewhere. However, ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett thinks the Saints will pony up and give Graham a respectable contract extension before the deadline arrives:
"The New Orleans Saints won big on Wednesday. But now they need to do right by Jimmy Graham. The Saints still need to offer Graham what he's worth -- at least $10 million per year, no matter if you consider him a wide receiver, a tight end or a hybrid. This thing still can -- and should -- turn into a win-win proposition, with the sides reaching a new deal before the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign long-term contracts. It should play out just like the dragged-out Drew Brees contract negotiations two years ago, when the Saints ultimately made Brees the NFL's first $20 million-per-year player before that same mid-July deadline. It’s all contingent on the Saints' paying Graham what he deserves. I believe they will ..."