Saints links: Debating Graham’s value

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
4:10
PM ET
The Times-Picayune's Larry Holder did some interesting research on how New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham fared last year when he was matched up against cornerbacks.

Per Holder's research, Graham caught 20 of the 38 passes thrown his way when he was matched up against cornerbacks -- a 52.6 percent success rate that Holder said would have ranked 91st out of 111 wide receivers.

As a result, Holder argued that Graham's desire to be paid like a top NFL wide receiver "doesn't fit the bill."

I don't completely agree with that thinking, though.

Holder makes a compelling argument -- and one that will likely come up during Graham's grievance hearing next week over whether he should be considered a tight end or wide receiver for franchise-tag purposes.

But as I have consistently written, while I do think Graham should be officially considered a tight end, I think he deserves to be paid like a top receiver. Right in the same ballpark as similarly-productive receivers like Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall, who make between $10 million and $11.2 million per year (which ranks fifth through eighth among all NFL receivers)

Maybe Graham is just taking advantage of the fact he is often matched up against linebackers and safeties. And maybe Graham's lower success rate against corners should encourage teams to try and match up cornerbacks against Graham more often.

But does that make him any less valuable than any other offensive monster in the NFL who has put up the kind of numbers he's put up for three consecutive years (an average of 90 catches, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns per year)?

If Graham were on the open market, I wouldn't be surprised to see him fetch close to $12 million per year for his services.

Normally, I would project the Saints and Graham to agree on a deal worth somewhere between $10 million and $11 million per year -- and maybe they still will do that before the grievance hearing is wrapped up as a way of meeting in the middle.

However, if they play this thing out, the grievance hearing will give the winning side a ton of leverage that could push the price tag in either direction.

Also worth a click:
  • Also from Holder, Saints owner Tom Benson is heading into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame -- a very deserving honor.
  • ESPN.com fantasy analyst Eric Karabell takes an early look at what to watch on the Saints' roster for fantasy purposes this summer in this Insider piece Insider. Karabell does a great job of sifting through the deep receiver and running back groups.
  • The Times-Picayune's Katherine Terrell talked with Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans about fighting through his injury-plagued 2013 season.
  • The Advocate's Ramon Antonio Vargas talked with second-year pro Rufus Johnson Jr. about his desire to make more of an impact this year. The Saints have been using Johnson as more of a 3-4 end in camp this year instead of an outside pass rusher.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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