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The Saints have not always made it an urgent priority to get extensions done with players before they enter their contract year (see Drew Brees), but our sources expect the team to at least engage in the conversation with TE Jimmy Graham this offseason.
Graham is in the third year of the four-year deal he signed as a rookie third-round pick, and his salary in 2013 will rise from the $540,000 he will make this season to $575,000 — a huge bargain for one of the league’s top pass-catching tight ends.
However, before the Saints can get serious about rewarding Graham or making any significant free-agent signings, they are going to have to make roster cuts and restructure contracts with some of their highest paid players on the roster to give themselves some salary-cap flexibility. Graham’s numbers have dipped after his breakout 2011 season, but he is still among the most productive tight ends in the league with 69 catches for 779 yards and eight touchdowns.
If the Saints and Graham have not agreed to a new deal by the end of next season, it does not mean his time with the Saints will be coming to an end — they will be able to designate him as their franchise player in 2014.