Updated: March 26, 2014, 9:39 AM ET
James Walker | ESPN.com
ORLANDO, Fla. — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday at the NFL owners meeting that it’s a matter of time before the team reaches a long-term contract extension with Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham.
The Saints used the one-year franchise tag with Graham on March 3. Both sides have been in continued negotiations, and Payton is confident a deal will be complete before the July deadline.
“It’s hard to put a timetable on it,” Payton said Wednesday. “But I would say very similar to Drew [Brees’ contract], I think all of us feel like it’s just a matter of not if, but when. I don’t know if there’s nervous anticipation.”
Graham is a core player in New Orleans. He led the Saints in receptions (86), yards (1,215) and touchdowns (16) last season. However, New Orleans has issues with the salary cap that must be addressed.
There has been some debate on position classification with Graham. He plays tight end but wants to be designated a wide receiver, where more money involved. Payton said that could make things tricky but may not be a huge snag in the grand scheme of negotiations.
Payton also added there hasn’t been any animosity between the two parties.
“They know it’s a process and Jimmy’s got great representation,” Payton explained. “There’s a ton of respect between [agent] Jimmy Sexton and [general manager] Mickey Loomis. All of those things is what makes it a positive, although difficult at times.”A Temple graduate and Hyattsville, Md., native who lives in Miami
Joined ESPN in 2008