NFL: Saints confirm multiyear deal with Jimmy Graham


NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints on Tuesday confirmed a multiyear contract with Jimmy Graham, ending a protracted holdout for the star tight end.

Graham skipped all of the Saints’ voluntary and mandatory practices and workouts — and challenged the NFL’s franchise tag process through arbitration.

The odds of Graham leaving the Saints were slim since the club in late February placed its franchise tag on the player.

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance, contending Graham was used as a wide receiver often enough to qualify for the more lucrative receiver tag, worth about $5 million a year more than the $7 million tag for a tight end.

A hearing was held in June and earlier this month. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank sided with the NFL, ruling Graham was capable of continuing to perform specific tight end duties while lined up in the slot or within 4 yards of an offensive tackle.

Once the ruling was in place, Graham had a choice of appealing or trying to reach a long-term contract by a July 15 deadline — after which he would have to play next season for his franchise tag number. A favorable ruling from Burbank would have further enhanced negotiating leverage for Graham, who last season led the Saints with 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Graham, a former college basketball player who played one year of football at Miami, was the Saints’ third-round draft choice in 2010. In his second season, Graham caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards. That total stood briefly as a yards receiving record for tight ends. That same day the mark was broken on the final day of that season by New England’s Rob Gronkowski, who finished with 1,327.

Graham has led the Saints in catches the past three seasons and led them in yards receiving and touchdowns in two of the last three seasons. For the past three regular seasons, he has 270 catches for 3,507 yards and 36 touchdowns.

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Cowboys release veteran QB Orton

The Dallas Cowboys are releasing Kyle Orton after their backup quarterback missed all the offseason workouts amid reports he was considering retirement.

A person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Cowboys were cutting ties with Orton slightly more than a week before the start of training camp. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the decision.

The 31-year-old Orton started the finale last year after Tony Romo injured his back a week earlier. The Cowboys lost to Philadelphia, their third straight season-ending defeat against an NFC East rival with a playoff berth on the line.

The new backup is likely to be Brandon Weeden,

Kluwe plans lawsuit if Vikings don’t release report

Chris Kluwe’s battle with the Minnesota Vikings over what he contends was a homophobic atmosphere behind the scenes when he was on the team is intensifying.

The team’s former punter said Tuesday he plans a lawsuit against the team, which he said is “reneging on a promise” to release a copy of its completed investigation of alleged anti-gay sentiments expressed by special teams coach Mike Priefer during the 2012 season.

Kluwe and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, announced at a morning news conference that they will file suit against the Vikings claiming discrimination on the grounds of religion, human rights, defamation and “tortious interference for contractual relations.”

By wire sources