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Saints will franchise tag Jimmy Graham if necessary

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham earned the No. 1 spot on Around The League's top 25 free agents for 2014, but New Orleans isn't planning to let him test the market.

General manager Mickey Loomis told reporters Tuesday at the Reese's Senior Bowl that the team will use its franchise tag on Graham if a long-term pact can't be struck, according to Sean Fazende of WVUE-TV.

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Loomis confirmed, per The Times-Picayune, that he views Graham as a tight end, not a wide receiver, saying: "This business about what position he is? I think he's a tight end. That's where we drafted him, that's where we play him. ... That's what makes him valuable."

Graham's camp will argue that he played just one-third of this season's snaps at the position he was drafted at in 2010. He's used all over the field in Sean Payton's offense, with most of Graham's damage coming on the outside against smaller cornerbacks who don't have a prayer against the 6-foot-7, 265-pound gem.

Why the positional debate? Last year's tag for wideouts was set a hefty $4.5 million higher than what designated tight ends earned.

It's still early in this process. We expect New Orleans to push hard to sign Graham to a long-term pact, but his camp isn't about to settle for tight end-level greenbacks when his production -- no player at his position was targeted more last season -- suggests so much more.

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