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Friday, June 13, 2014
Saints links: Debating Graham’s value

By Mike Triplett

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.

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