The Saints officially placed the franchise tag on Graham as a tight end earlier this month. But when asked Wednesday if he’s surprised that Graham would be interested in receiving “wide receiver money” in his next contract, Payton said: “I think that's a byproduct of a little bit of an antiquated system with regards to franchise numbers. I think those will be, over the years, revisited and adjusted."
Of course, Graham and his camp may have to force the issue if the two sides can't agree on a long-term contract extension within the next month. So far, Graham hasn’t filed a grievance to challenge the tight-end designation. But he must do so by mid-April if he wants to be declared a wide receiver instead.
That deadline could certainly speed up the long-term negotiations between the two sides.
One way or another, Payton stressed Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., that he is confident a deal will get done eventually -- calling it a matter of “when, not if.”
And if a deal does get worked out in the short term, Payton pointed out that the tight end/receiver debate ultimately won’t even matter.
“We're all optimistic,” Payton said. “It's really a matter of getting through this process, and (Graham's agent) Jimmy Sexton, (Saints general manager) Mickey Loomis, those guys have a great relationship. I think our fans are smart enough and understand there's always some time involved.
“This one's a little uniquely different in regards to the position classification, and yet that still may not even be an issue."