Update (12:27 p.m.) Multiple media outlets are now reporting that for franchise tag purposes, Jimmy Graham has been ruled a ‘tight end.’ He’ll make $7.05 million in 2014, nearly $5 million less than he’d hoped.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will soon learn the outcome of his franchise-tag grievance, one that could impact the way players who are used in non-traditional ways by their teams are compensated.
A source told ESPN that on Thursday, arbitrator Stephen Burbank will inform both Graham and the Saints of the ruling, which would determine whether he’s paid like a tight end or a wide receiver.
Graham received the franchise tag for the 2014 season, meaning he’ll make $7.05 million. According to the collective bargaining agreement, the franchise tag figure is calculated by taking the average salaries of the top five players at a respective position or 120 percent of the player’s salary from the previous year, whichever is more.
The former Miami Hurricane is contesting that because he lined up in the slot or out wide 67 percent of the time in 2013, that he deserves to be paid like a receiver, which would bump his salary up to $12.13 million for the season.
Graham does present a valid case, although the tight end position has always held various responsibilities. On some plays, tight ends serve as in-line blockers and in other instances, you’ll see them utilized in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
According to CBA rules, a franchise tag designation is given “at which the Franchise player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.”
Burbank met with the NFL Management Council and the NFLPA in New Orleans last month to discuss the situation. Saints head coach Sean Payton was among those testifying at the hearing, saying that he believed Graham should be considered a tight end.
Former teammate Lance Moore and former coach Butch Davis both testified saying that they felt Graham should be tagged as a wide receiver.
Regardless of the outcome, a coach testifying that a player deserves $5 million less than what he believes he deserves…well, that doesn’t exactly set the tone for a productive training camp.