Jimmy Graham 2014 NFL Free Agency Destination: Washington Redskins


November 18, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) tries to break free from Oakland Raiders cornerback Mike Mitchell (34) after making a catch in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Saints defeated the Raiders 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Before Who Dat Nation gets all indignant at the audacity of considering Jimmy Graham might somehow leave the New Orleans Saints, please remember this is merely presenting an idea based on the fact he is a free agent next year.  Graham figures to become one of the premier targets in 2014 and a bidding war should kick off if his current team can’t find the money to pay him.

New Orleans Saints searching for salary cap relief for Graham

Based on current numbers the New Orleans Saints overtook the Dallas Cowboys in salary cap problems.  Though they squeezed under the cap this year thanks to some restructured contracts they are not looking good after the 2013 season.  Looking ahead to 2014 they will have over $143 million committed to their roster.  That is almost $20 million over the current 2013 cap.  While experts see a slight bump coming next year it will not go that high.  Put simply, New Orleans is in for some big changes.  The worst part is a number of key players are set to become free agents by then.  Linebacker Jonathan Vilma and center Brian De La Puente are both expecting new deals, but the big fish of the bunch is Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham.  His importance to the Saints offense cannot be understated.

Missing only one game last season he put up 982 yards and 9 touchdowns.  Another great year means his price will skyrocket, perhaps to a point where the Saints can’t pay it or will have to gut a good part of their roster to do so.  The franchise tag will likely become an option.  Then again, based on his production Graham has an excellent argument to classify himself as a wide receiver, which would bump the number from $6 million to $10 million.  For a cash-strapped team, that is a huge difference.  If Graham takes this route then his likelihood of hitting the open market goes up considerably.

Redskins and Robert Griffin III waiting on Fred Davis

When that happens the sharks will circle almost immediately.  One team that figures to enter that sweepstakes is the Washington Redskins.  Their owner Daniel Snyder has no qualms about spending big in free agency if he thinks it will help his team win. Washington couldn’t do that this off-season because of a salary cap penalty installed by the NFL against the Redskins and Cowboys for overspending during the uncapped 2010 season.  That penalty expires next year.  By then Snyder and head coach Mike Shanahan should have plans for a very aggressive approach in free agency.  As it stands the team will pay 48 players on the current roster.  That could leave them with somewhere around $36 million in cap space to spend.  Their interest in Jimmy Graham at that point depends on the future of tight end Fred Davis.  Early in the 2012 season he developed a strong connection with star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.  Sadly a torn Achilles ended his year.  The Redskins, devoid of finding a replacement, brought Davis back on a cheap one-year deal in hopes he returns to form.  If he can’t, then tight end becomes a big hole for the team to fill.  Snyder won’t hesitate about pressing for the 27-year old Graham.

Everything rests on how far the Saints are willing to go to keep him in New Orleans.