Jimmy Graham reaches 4-year deal

Updated: July 16, 2014, 1:44 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The New Orleans Saints and Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham have agreed to a four-year, $40 million deal that includes $21 million guaranteed, a source familiar with the deal told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The deal makes Graham the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, eclipsing the deal signed in 2008 by former Indianapolis Colt Dallas Clark, who got $27.55 million in the first three years of that deal.

Graham and the Saints both announced the agreement, minus terms, via Twitter on Tuesday morning:

"We are very excited to have this contract done," Saints executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis later said in a statement. "'We appreciate the hard work and professionalism that Jimmy Graham and his agent Jimmy Sexton have exhibited during this process. We are all looking forward to Jimmy's continued success on the field as we pursue a championship together."

The two sides came down to the wire before the Tuesday 4 p.m. ET deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign long-term contracts. But the fact that they reached a deal is a good sign that there won't be any lingering animosity from the negotiations, which included a groundbreaking arbitration hearing in which Saints coach Sean Payton and Loomis testified against Graham's wide receiver argument.

Graham was angling for an even bigger payday when he filed the grievance, asking to be declared a receiver instead of a tight end for franchise-tag purposes. But his request was ultimately rejected by arbitrator Stephen Burbank earlier this month.

In the end, though, the deal appears to be a win-win for a team and player that have been a perfect fit for each other since the Saints drafted the former University of Miami basketball player in the third round in 2010.

Over the past three years, the former college basketball player has led all NFL players with 36 touchdown catches while averaging 90 catches, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns per season. He was a first-team All-Pro last season and a Pro Bowler in 2011 and 2013.

Several of Graham's Saints teammates, including linebacker Junior Galette, took to Twitter on Tuesday to congratulate him on his new deal:

ESPN.com Saints reporter Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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