The clock is officially ticking for the New Orleans Saints to negotiate a long-term deal with tight end Jimmy Graham.

Teams were allowed to place the franchise tag on one of their players beginning Monday. They have until the March 3 deadline to use the tag. The Saints will almost undoubtedly place the tag on Graham on or before that deadline.

The tag is a one-year, guaranteed contract offer that prevents a player from becoming a free agent. Free agency begins on March 11. The tag has two types of designations, exclusive and non-exclusive.

Just like with Drew Brees, whose contract dragged out into mid-July 2012, the Saints are expected to be in for a long battle with Graham.

It's been almost a decade since a player signed and played under the franchise tag with the Saints. Defensive end Darren Howard played the 2004 and 2005 seasons with the tag.

The Saints have also tagged Brees (2012, exclusive) and defensive end Charles Grant (2007, non exclusive), but neither player actually played a season under the franchise tag as both signed long-term deals later in their respective offseasons.

Non-exclusive tagged players may still negotiate with other teams and sign an offer sheet, but their current team has seven days to match. If they choose not to do so, the new team must give the former team two first-round draft picks.

The salary of the non-exclusive tag, which is the cheaper option for teams, is determined by calculating the average salary-cap percentage of the franchise tag in five prior years.

The exclusive rights franchise tag prevents players from negotiating with other teams, but with a steeper cost. The player receives a one-year salary equal to an average of the top five players at his position.