So much focus this off season has been on what the New Orleans Saints do with quarterback Drew Brees, guard Carl Nicks, and wide receiver Marques Colston.
General Manager Mickey Loomis may need to address another star on the offensive side of the ball however, tight end Jimmy Graham.
Graham only has two years remaining on his four-year $2.4 million dollar rookie contract that he signed when he entered the league in 2010.
The average salary for a tight end in the NFL in 2011 was $1.27 million, and in terms of average per year, Graham was near the bottom of the league.
Atlanta Falcons future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzales signed a one year extension following this past season, paying him about $7 million.
However, Tony Gonzales is 35 years old and just played in his 15th season in the NFL.
On February 22nd, the Green Bay Packers signed Jermichael Finley to a two year contract worth $15 million.
It’s likely that Jimmy Graham’s agent will be seeking more money if not this off season, then next off season.
The New Orleans Saints could however choose to not give him a larger deal due to their limited cap space and numerous free agents, forcing Graham to play out his rookie deal.
After rotating playing time with former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey in his first season, he became a standout and among the games best after Shockey left to join the Carolina Panthers.
In the 2011 season Graham had emerged as one of the top tight ends in the NFL in only his first two seasons.
He was named to the NFL Pro Bowl in his second season and recorded one of the best years ever by a tight end in NFL history after netting 99 receptions for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.
His 1,310 yards receiving were second most in NFL history.
Jimmy Graham battled with tight end Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots down to the last second of the regular season as both players went back and forth on who held the record as announcers struggled to keep up.
Graham fell short, however, as Gronkowski ended up with 17 more yards than Graham finishing his second season with 1,327 yards receiving.
The previous receiving yards mark by a tight end was held by Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow of the San Diego Chargers, a record that was set in 1980.
Graham was one of the Saints biggest targets for quarterback Drew Brees, especially in red zone situations.
HIs huge size advantage allowed him to box out defenders, or simply out jmo them, to go along with his great hands skills which he developed playing basketball for three seasons at the University of Miami.
At the University of Miami Jimmy Graham had 17 catches for 213 yards, which included five touchdowns, in his only and only year as a football players.
Graham was the New Orleans Saints 3rd round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
He is likely one of the most underpaid athletes in the NFL currently, and sooner or later the Saints will have to give Jimmy Graham what he is worth — that means top tight end money.
The question is how soon will that be?