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Will Saints, Graham strike long-term deal by July 15?

Mark your calendars for July 15.

If the team and their prized pass-catcher don't hammer out a long-term contract by that deadline, Jimmy Graham has the option to either play out the year under his $7.053 million franchise tag or sit out the season.

Around The League fully expects the All-Pro to knit a new contract with the New Orleans Saints, whether that comes over the next 10 days or during the 2015 offseason. We're not alone.

Plugged-in beat writer Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune wrote Friday that "it would be a shock if Graham's agent, Jimmy Sexton, and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis don't hammer out a long-term contract" by the deadline.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that those talks began at "ground zero" after arbitrator Stephen Burbank's ruling, but in the world of contract negotiations, there's more than enough time to piece together a fair deal. While Burbank's designation will keep Graham from netting top-tier wideout cash, he's a lock to eventually become the NFL's highest-paid tight end.

Before Saints fans panic, recall that Ryan Clady inked his long-term pact with the Broncos last year after the sun set on July 14, while Matt Forte signed his Bears contract two summers ago just hours before the deadline. NFL Media's Albert Breer noted that Saints brass anticipate an agreement with Graham "right before" the clock strikes midnight.

Browns tight end Jordan Cameron -- a candidate for the franchise tag next spring -- quickly changed his Twitter bio from "tight end" to "pass catcher" after the Graham ruling, but he won't be treated any differently by an arbitrator if it comes down to that.

Cameron and his fellow playmakers at the position can take heart, though, in the massive contract Graham ultimately will sign with the team that drafted him as a tight end four years ago.

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