NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport confirmed the non-exclusive tag, which was causing a hubbub Saturday morning.
This particular tag designation allows any team to negotiate with Graham and sign him to an offer sheet, which the Saints have the right to match. If New Orleans declines to match, they would receive two first-round draft picks from said offering team.
Allow us to throw some cold water on this bit of news -- and give calm to the heartbeat of the hyperventilating Saints fan. With very few exceptions, the franchise tag that's most commonly used is non-exclusive (unless we are talking about a quarterback.)
As Rapoport points out, every tag this year (thus far) and last year was of the non-exclusive variety.
The monetary difference in designation for the player is in averaging last season's top-five positional salaries (non-exclusive) versus next season's top-five salaries (exclusive), which is calculated at the end of the restricted free-agent signing period, several days before the NFL draft.
Two years ago, the Saints did use the exclusive tag on Drew Brees. But it would have been bigger news had they used it on Graham. Instead, they designated him the same as most teams designate their non-quarterbacks.
Could a team, especially one with late first-round picks, blow Graham away and give him one of the best non-quarterback contracts on the market? Sure, they could. But the Saints are smartly betting no team would take that risk on a tight end, even one as valuable as Graham.