New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is fully aware of the challenges of free agency this offseason. The contract status of All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham will continue to be a major hurdle in how the Saints move forward in free agency.

Payton said in an interview on Fox Sports 1 on Friday that Graham's negotiations not only affect Graham, but how the Saints handle the rest of their free agents, players still under contract and potential targets outside of the organization as New Orleans is currently parked around $12 million over the projected salary cap.

"I know that Mickey Loomis, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Jimmy Sexton (Graham's agent) and all parties involved are going to work very hard and very diligently, no different than they did with Drew (Brees) on his contract," Payton said in the interview. "With that being said, the first thing that comes to my mind with free agency is your own roster. I think often times that gets overlooked.

"The most challenging part of your job as a coach, and I share that with Mickey or anyone that has been with an organization as long as we have been, going on year nine, is some of the tough decisions that have to be made with regards to your cap with the ability that you possibly can sign Jimmy Graham."

The Saints will have a two-week period to use the franchise tag on Graham as the period opens Feb. 17 and closes March 3. If a long-term deal hits a snag, there's no doubt the Saints will tag Graham as Loomis has said this offseason that will happen.

Then comes the debate of whether Graham is considered a tight end or a wide receiver. The Saints unwaveringly view Graham as a tight end, which a tight-end tag would cost around $6.8 million in 2014. Graham and his representatives will likely contend Graham should be paid like a wide receiver, which would cost around $11.6 million.

The Saints also have key potential free agents like safety Malcolm Jenkins, tackle Zach Strief and center Brian de la Puente they will ponder re-signing. To make any of this happen, the Saints will need trim to salary fat off their ledger and Payton alluded to as much Friday.