Owner Tom Benson expressed confidence that his New Orleans Saints will be able to close the deal on two of the biggest issues facing his franchise and city this offseason -- re-signing tight end Jimmy Graham to a long-term contract extension and bringing the Super Bowl back to New Orleans in 2018.
Benson joked about the Graham negotiations, saying he might have to "kick him a little bit" or bring in his secret weapon to close the deal -- his wife, Gayle. On a serious note, Benson admitted the talks could take a while like the Saints' talks with quarterback Drew Brees in 2012. But the owner said he was confident an agreement will be reached eventually.
"He's a hell of a good player, but he's also a good person," Benson said. "I'm confident we'll work out something. We just have a little bit of time to do it, that's all."
As for the Super Bowl, New Orleans would seem to be a leading contender to bring the game back for a record 11th time. The other candidates to host Super Bowl LII are Indianapolis and Minnesota. The decision is expected to be made at the next set of league meetings in May.
Benson said he doesn't believe the infamous "blackout" inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during Super Bowl XLVII will hurt New Orleans' chances after the rest of the week was so successful.
"I feel good about it. You never know, but I feel real good about it. I plan on being there shaking a few hands just to make sure," Benson said. "I think that everybody likes New Orleans. New Orleans is known as a party town, but hey, we put on a good show for everybody."
Benson also complimented general manager Mickey Loomis for the way he has managed the Saints' tight squeeze against the salary cap, including the recent signing of free-agent safety Jairus Byrd.
Benson, Byrd on Wilson: Benson and granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc issued statements on the passing of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson on Tuesday. Benson called Wilson a "valued friend and colleague" and said the NFL "lost one of its visionaries today."
Byrd, who spent his first five seasons with the Bills, posted a message on social media: "R.I.P. Mr. Wilson. Thank you doesn't describe how truly grateful I am for the opportunity you have me to play a game I love."
Payton on Graham, Cadet: Saints coach Sean Payton hit on a variety of topics during an interview with Cox Sports TV's Mike Nabors on Tuesday. Regarding Graham's contract talks, Payton said, "I think everybody involved in the process has handled it well." And he added, "I anticipate when we start up for training camp for Jimmy Graham to be ready to go."
Among other topics, Payton suggested that third-year pro Travaris Cadet could take on "a little more of that role" that runner/receiver Darren Sproles has played in the Saints' offense over the past three years.
I don't expect a huge leap for Cadet, since I think the Saints also want to find ways to get more touches for fellow running backs Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. But it makes sense to hear Payton express that confidence in Cadet. Payton singled out Cadet a few times late last season as someone he was trying to work into the offense at times.
Payton will speak for a full hour with the media Wednesday morning at the league meetings. Stay tuned for some early-morning updates since he begins speaking at 7:15 a.m. ET time.
Saints get a ‘B': A panel of ESPN NFL Insiders handed out free-agency grades for every team. The Saints earned a B, which ranks among the 10 best grades in the NFL (though the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers drew the highest grade).
Analysts Bill Polian and Louis Riddick both mentioned the lofty price tag for Byrd, but they both said they expect him to make a big impact.
Rex on Rob: New York Jets coach Rex Ryan explained why his brother Rob and the city of New Orleans are such a good fit for each other in this Times-Picayune notebook. Also included is Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's thoughts on newly signed Pittsburgh receiver Lance Moore.
Baby girl for Brees: Brees said that he and his wife, Brittany, will finally have their first baby girl while guesting on E’s “The Chelsea Lately” show. They’re expecting their fourth child in August. They have three sons: Baylen, Bowen and Callen.