Payton sure of Saints, Graham deal

Updated: March 26, 2014, 5:26 PM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday at the NFL owners meeting that it's a matter of time before the team reaches a long-term contract extension with Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Graham
Chris Graythen/Getty Images"It's just a matter of not if, but when" Jimmy Graham and the Saints will agree to a long-term deal, coach Sean Payton said Wednesday.

The Saints used the one-year franchise tag on Graham on March 3. Both sides have been in continued negotiations, and Payton is confident a deal will be complete before the July deadline.

"It's hard to put a timetable on it," Payton said Wednesday. "But I would say very similar to Drew [Brees' contract], I think all of us feel like it's just a matter of not if, but when. I don't know if there's nervous anticipation."

Graham is a core player in New Orleans. He led the Saints in receptions (86), yards (1,215) and touchdowns (16) last season. However, New Orleans has issues with the salary cap that must be addressed.

There has been some debate on position classification with Graham. He plays tight end but wants to be designated as a wide receiver, where more money is involved. Payton said that could make things tricky but may not be a huge snag in the grand scheme of negotiations.

Payton also added there hasn't been any animosity between the two parties.

"They know it's a process and Jimmy's got great representation," Payton said. "There's a ton of respect between [agent] Jimmy Sexton and [general manager] Mickey Loomis. All of those things is what makes it a positive, although difficult at times."

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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