Allen Kim

Jimmy Graham Signs New Deal With Saints

Jul 15, 2014 9:54 AM EST

After a prolonged battle, Jimmy Graham has signed a new contract with the New Orleans Saints that will make him the highest-paid tight end in the league. Graham inked a four-year, $40 million deal with $21 million guaranteed today.

The long and contentious fight between Graham and the Saints has finally come to an end. Things were starting to look ugly after arbitrator Stephen Burbank tagged Graham a free agent after he sought the wide receiver tag, which was a difference of $5.3 million.

There was uncertainty as to whether a deal would be completed before the deadline. Graham appealed Burbank’s ruling at the last minute, which some saw as a sign that Graham could very well play out the 2014 season under the franchise tag. It also may have been a ploy to put some pressure on the Saints to cave in and give in to some of his demands, as it gave Graham some insurance just in case a deal was not reached. That appeal is now a non-factor.

New Orleans waited until the 11th hour, with the deadline for the long-term agreement set for 4:00 p.m. ET today. It was previously reported that the Saints offered a deal that averaged $9.5 million annually, so the new offer is a slight upgrade.

Graham was an absolute monster in his contract year, and the Saints got Drew Brees' best offensive weapon locked up through his prime years. He caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns despite being limited by plantar fascia nearly all season long. He tops Rob Gronkowski’s $9 million annual average, and he was given $5 million more guaranteed than Dennis Pitta and Jared Cook were recently given in recent deals.