Morning report: Graham deal within month?

According to a report by Pro Football Talk, there appears to be some optimism that the New Orleans Saints and Jimmy Graham will work out a long-term contract agreement by mid-April. The motivation for both sides would be to avoid a third-party ruling over whether Graham should be considered a tight end or wide receiver for franchise-tag purposes.

Graham, who was formally franchised as a tight end on March 3, has not yet filed a grievance to be labeled as a wide receiver instead. And according to the report, which cited a league source, the “current expectation is that the Saints and Graham will finalize a long-term contract” before Graham files a grievance. The exact deadline for Graham to do so is unclear, though it is believed to be on or before April 22.

The report makes sense. It explains why Graham and agent Jimmy Sexton didn’t immediately rush to file the grievance (they still have the threat of doing so as leverage). And as I’ve suggested before, both sides would probably prefer to avoid putting so much leverage in the hands of a neutral third-party arbitrator.

Former NFL general managers Bill Polian and Billy Devaney both stressed that point when discussing Graham’s situation last month, saying third-party rulings are too unpredictable.

However, wrapping up a deal of this magnitude is easier said than done. Graham’s deal will be groundbreaking since it will surely be the richest in NFL history for a tight end (surpassing Rob Gronkowski's $9 million per year). Graham’s camp is likely seeking for something more in the range of the top five or 10 wide receivers in the league (perhaps $11 to $12 million per year).

Payton on roster moves: On Monday, I linked to Saints general manager Mickey Loomis’ comments at the NFL meetings about the flurry of moves New Orleans has made this offseason. The Advocate’s Ramon Antonio Vargas later caught up with Saints coach Sean Payton for his thoughts on the same topics.

Payton stressed that it was difficult to part ways with so many “pillars.” But he said it was important for the Saints to keep moving forward with moves like the signing of safety Jairus Byrd.

“You can’t have it all and then go out and sign players (such as Byrd),” Payton said. “You lose players that you think are good football players.”

Loomis on training camp: Loomis also expanded on his reasons for the team’s decision to move part of this year’s training camp to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia -- something Loomis said he had considered for nearly three years.