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Tying loose ends

Saints Tight End Jimmy Graham's been a mainstay in New Orleans since his rookie season, but his future in the Big Easy is anything but guaranteed as the game's most prolific tight end hits free agency in 2014

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Jimmy Graham adores Drew Brees and wants to continue playing with the future hall of fame quarterback.

"I love Drew Brees," Graham said. "I told him I'm going to retire with him, so hopefully that'll happen."

Brees and Graham's relationship speaks volumes, but money talks in the NFL and Graham's numbers speak for themselves.

"You also realize that in this league, in this day and age, some of those guys you're not going to be playing with anymore," Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints quarterback said.  "Every team changes. There's a lot of turnover from year to year. So there's guys that perhaps you played with for a few years and you've kind of formed a special bond with that all of a sudden they're gone. It's a different team and you have to re-establish that identity each and every year."

The fourth year player out of Miami enters the 2014 free agent market with gaudy numbers that warrant a monster payday. During the first four years of his career, all as a Saint, Graham has accumulated 3,863 yards receiving. That's more than any tight end in the history of the NFL over that same span. Graham's 41 touchdowns during that period also rank best at his position. To draw perspective: former Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez had 24 touchdowns during the first four years of his career.

"I've gotta figure out what's going to happen first. So, we'll see. Obviously, this is a great city, great team."

Slapping the franchise tag on Graham seems the most likely scenario for the Saints. The organization has deadline of Feb. 17 to tag a player. But a dispute could erupt if the Saints try to hit Graham with a tight ends tag over a wide receivers tag. A wide receivers tag is worth nearly $5 million more than a tight ends tag.

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