Source: Saints, Jimmy Graham ‘closing in’ on long-term deal

The Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham are ‘closing in’ on a long-term deal that would make him the highest-paid player at the position, a source told FOX Sports 1 NFL Insider Mike Garafolo.

Graham, who appealed the league’s arbitration decision of ruling him a tight end for franchise tag purposes, filed the request hours before a Monday night deadline, FOX Sports has learned. According to the collective-bargaining agreement, a three-member panel will oversee the case.

The two sides have until 4 p.m. ET Tuesday to reach a long-term deal or Graham must sign his tender.

The multiyear deal is expected to eclipse the $9 million per season New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski earns.

If a long-term agreement can’t be made, Graham will play the 2014 season for $7,053,000. If Graham were ruled a wide receiver, his franchise tag salary would earn him $12.3 million.

After Graham filed a grievance that said he should be designated a wide receiver because he spent a majority of the snaps in the slot rather than on the line of scrimmage, arbitrator Stephen Burbank made the ruling Graham should be paid like a tight end.

Graham has been one of the most consistent pass-catching threats since he entered the league in 2010. Since then, he has 301 receptions for 3,863 yards and an eye-popping 41 touchdowns.