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OPINION

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

Drew Brees took the shot gun snap, flipped the ball in his hands and immediately looked to his right.

Already, before the coverage had fully shown itself, Brees knew where he was going with the football with his team at the 8-yard line.

Jimmy Graham, split wide right, was going to be open and Brees was going to get him the ball.

It worked and Graham, for the 17th time this season, caught a touchdown pass from Brees.

Of course, that was in the Pro Bowl.

Then again, it's that comfort level between Brees and Graham on a field full of all-stars that tells you everything you need to know about their on-field relationship and just what the tight end means to the Saints' offense.

It's why the Saints and Graham have to figure out a way to have a civil contract negotiation.

Both need each other.

New Orleans needs the mismatch Graham provides.

Graham needs the constant passes from Brees.

Since Graham came into the league, he's third in the NFL among tight end with 301 catches. He's second for his position, and third overall, with 41 touchdown grabs. He also has the most receiving yards for tight ends with 3,863.

But we all know it's likely to get contentious.

After all, Graham's agent Jimmy Sexton is a member of CAA, the hardest-bargaining agency in all of the land.

You've heard of them before. Brees' agent, Tom Condon, is a member and we all remember how that played out.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis views, as he should, Graham as a tight end. And while Graham hasn't said it, and Sexton has been mum about it, it's likely they'll fight for receiver money.

The difference is enormous.

Detroit's Calvin Johnson signed the largest contract for a receiver in 2012, putting pen to paper on an eight-year deal worth a potential $132 million.

New England's Rob Gronkowski put his name on a six-year extension worth a potential $53 million.

Then there's the franchise tag, a good possibility should the sides not come to agreement by March 3, the NFL's deadline for clubs to designate a player as tagged.

While the 2014 numbers haven't been announced, the 2013 figures show a wide gulf, $10.3 million for receivers and $5.9 for tight ends.

It certainly makes sense that Graham and Sexton would push for receiver money.

Fact is, though, that the tight end of football now has a poster-child in Graham. He plays out wide as a mismatch, but also puts his hand in the ground and blocks at the end of the line.

But this is also the NFL as we know it, a multibillion dollar industry where every side fights, contentiously at times, for every last penny.

Yet, it's fair to mention this one more time Sunday night, on a field full of football's best and most-talented players, Brees didn't hesitate in going to Graham.

Forget the tight end's performance this past postseason. He's an important part of the team's future and should be rewarded as such.

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