SEATTLE – The Saints’ offseason wasn’t even an hour old before someone asked tight end Jimmy Graham if he had any plans to strike a new deal with New Orleans.
Replied Graham, who is certain to become the NFL’s most-sought free agent in March if the Saints don’t slap the franchise tag on him or sign him to a long-term contract prior to that: “Well, I have to figure out what’s going to happen.
“We’ll see. This is a great city, a great team. I love (Saints quarterback) Drew Brees. I told them I would like to retire with him. Hopefully it will happen.”
The Saints lost an NFC Divisional playoff at Seattle 23-15 on Saturday and were eliminated from the postseason.
Graham led the Saints (12-6) with 86 catches for 1,215 yards, and he topped the NFL with 16 touchdown receptions this regular season, earning him a Pro Bowl nod as well as first-team All-Pro honors.
The postseason was less gaudy for Graham, who is reaching the end of the rookie deal he accepted after the Saints selected him in the third round of the 2010 draft. He totaled three catches for 44 yards in the Saints’ wildcard win at Philadelphia (10-7) and only one grab for 8 yards with less than 24 seconds left in the game against top-seeded Seattle (14-3), who had beaten New Orleans 34-7 on Dec. 2.
Graham’s lack of success attracted derision from the Seahawks because the Saints star nearly came to blows with Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin during pre-game warm-ups.
“Jimmy is the guy who wants to get open in zones, find windows, and make easy catches,” said Irvin, who had two tackles against the Saints. “He doesn’t want to be physical. So our biggest thing was to put our hands on him and make him be physical. That’s something that he didn’t want to do, and I think it was successful.”
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said Seattle wanted to stop Graham “because he was talking a lot of trash before the game, … so that kind of added an extra incentive.”
Graham was targeted six times Saturday, but Seahawks defenders were constantly swarming him. He said, “Drew is going to throw it to the open guys, and if you’ve got people on you, he’s not going to throw you the ball.
“When the ball comes my way, I’ve just got to make a play. Some of the calls, I thought, were a little different.”
Graham didn’t say much about the altercation with Irvin.
“He tried to disrespect me, and I’m not going to let anyone disrespect me,” Graham said.