The New Orleans Saints' pending contract talks with star tight end Jimmy Graham presents a challenge for the organization.
Whether the Saints use the franchise tag on Graham or sign him to a long-term deal will have a huge impact on the Saints' salary-cap outlook, coach Sean Payton acknowledged in an interview with FOX Sports.
The Saints have roughly $12 million in salary-cap space currently.
“I know that Mickey Loomis, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Jimmy Sexton (Graham's agent) and all parties involved are going to work very hard and very diligently, no different than they did with Drew (Brees) on his contract,” Payton said. “With that being said, the first thing that comes to my mind with free agency is your own roster. I think often times that gets overlooked.
“The most challenging part of your job as a coach, and I share that with Mickey or anyone that has been with an organization as long as we have been, going on year nine, is some of the tough decisions that have to be made with regards to your cap with the ability that you possibly can sign Jimmy Graham.”
The Saints might have to cut some players or adjust their contracts, including outside linebacker Will Smith, safety Roman Harper, wide receiver Lance Moore, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, cornerback Jabari Greer and running back Pierre Thomas, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“It's very easy to say 'you are certainly going to get this done' but you have to understand there is a budget here,” Payton said. “That's the challenging part. You are going to read these names that have already come across the ticker from Atlanta last week (the release of cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas) and we will be no different.”
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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun.