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This after Jimmy Graham and the team reached an agreement on a four-year contract worth a reported $40 million. According to multiple reports the deal includes between $20 and $21 million in guaranteed money and makes Graham the highest-paid tight end in the league.
The Saints have confirmed that they agreed to terms on a multi-year deal.
Graham and the Saints had until today's 4 p.m. ET deadline to get a long-term deal signed. Much like Drew Brees' negotiation with the Saints in 2012, the deadline led to action.
According to NFL.com, the tight end's new contract places him above Rob Gronkowski's annual average salary of $9 million per season. Graham also got a higher guaranteed number -- $21 million to Gronk's $16.5 million on the Patriots' six-year, $53 million extension signed in 2012.
The four-year pact gives Graham another shot at free agency when he is 31-years-old.
On Monday, Graham appealed the league's arbitration decision that he is a tight end for franchise tag purposes. That move was insurance in case the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on a long-term deal. The appeal now becomes moot.
Graham certainly deserves to be the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. He led the league last year with 16 touchdowns and gobbled up 86 passes for 1,215 yards -- despite being slowed by a plantar fascia injury for most of the second half of the season.
Given that level of production, fantasy owners are drafting accordingly; Graham has easily the first tight end off the board and in MyFantasyLeague.com's current ADP ranking, Graham has gone with the 10th pick overall.
UPDATE: Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio, citing a source with knowledge of the contract, is reporting that Graham received $12 million to sign, along with a $1 million base salary for 2014. That’s $13 million in the first year and a cap number of $4 million.
The rest of the guaranteed money falls into 2015 salary, which is guaranteed for injury only, for now. The $8 million Graham is due to make next year becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2015 waiver period. This means that, as a practical matter, the Saints won’t be cutting Graham before the injury guarantee becomes a full and complete guarantee.
Cutting Graham in the days after the next Super Bowl, more than a month before the start of the new league year, would result in $9 million in cap dollars flowing back to 2014. Even if the Saints were to cut Graham before the next $8 million becomes fully guaranteed, Graham would get $13 million for one season and then become a free agent well before free agency opens.
So, as Florio summed up, "Graham either gets $21 million over two years or $13 million over one and a crack at the open market."