Yellin: Graham, Saints both winners, but for more than outcome

Yellin: Graham, Saints both winners, but for more than outcome

Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 21, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton shakes hands with tight end Jimmy Graham (80) prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 7:07 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 16 at 9:15 AM

OPINION

Lyons Yellin / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: lyellin@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

They say money can’t cure what ails you. Wanna bet? Just ask Jimmy Graham.

Now that his benchmark four-year, $40 million deal is done, tight ends everywhere can restore that moniker to their social media mastheads.

The tight ends are back -- and more are coming for their new deals -- guaranteed. Graham’s dollars made sure of that. 

There’s little doubt Graham's deal will reverberate through the league with the same fervor as has his on-field performance.  He is one of the NFL’s marquee talents, and as such, has earned the right to be paid like one.

Over the last three seasons, no player has outperformed his contract more so than Graham.  He’s one of only two players in league history -- Randy Moss being the other -- to have over 300 receptions and 40 touchdowns over his first four seasons. 

Unfortunately for Graham, though, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis doesn’t possess the same wasteful extravagance as his NBA and MLB counterparts.

In the last week alone, the sports world has “witnessed” the NBA’s toady executives engage in a wildly superfluous spending spree, all while the NFL continues to be king with its measured approach.

Yet, because of Graham and agent Jimmy Sexton’s forbearance, they’ve succeeded in maximizing Graham’s earning potential – both now and in the future -- an objective in which few should find fault.

I certainly don’t.

In an age when profligate athletes routinely make specious promises, Graham's proven he’s one of the good guys and worthy of his new deal.  Graham did more for the league’s players than set a precedent for generous future contracts. He, Sexton and the Saints’ brass collectively demonstrated a respectable roadmap through a hard-fought negotiation by staying the course.

The Saints' tact has actually become their modis operandi. Drew Brees can certainly attest to that.

And some of the league’s other tight ends – like the one “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” watching his teammates practice all day– should take a cue from Graham.

He never complained or pouted, threatened or bickered.  No recalcitrant social media meltdowns after arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled against him.

Now the two sides can again unite. No more talk of franchise tags or a position definition. Graham should hold no ill will against coach Sean Payton or Loomis, both of whom testified at his grievance hearing. That was business, and it ultimately proved inconsequential to the final outcome. Graham is being paid like a wide receiver, and better than all but six of them.

Yes, Graham, Sexton and the Saints waited patiently, handling the protracted negotiation away from the media spotlight. They all did it on their own terms.

And in the end, that’s exactly what they all got.

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