The Saints and Graham have made no progress toward a long-term contract and if Graham is labeled as a TE and not a wide receiver, Graham through his agent states he will file an immediate grievance.
The reason for Graham’s grouse is the coin. The difference in money for Graham if he is tagged as a TE, his official position and a WR is significant.
The projected 2014 franchise-tag amount for tight ends is $6.8 million, while the projected franchise-tag amount for wide receivers is $11.6 million.
|By Matthew Bragg via Wikimedia Commons|
Based on his performance, Graham has a valid argument. Graham plays other receiving positions other than TE and even lines up as a slot receiver. Graham finished 2013 with 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Teams can apply the franchise tag through March 3 on one of its players with an expiring contract.
The franchise tag rule is simple, the player is tagged at the position he plays the most. However, not so simple if you are the Saints and Graham and here is why.
Graham lined up in the slot or at wide receiver 49.8 percent of the time during the regular season, touchdown for the Who Dats.
During the Saints’ playoff run, Graham lined up in the slot or wide receiver position 69.6 percent of the time. That brings his total for “wide receiver” time for the entire 2013 regular season to 52 percent, touchdown for Graham.
Precedent in favor of Graham is minimal. In 2008, Terrell Suggs challenged his franchise player designation as a linebacker by the Baltimore Ravens. Suggs argued that he played more snaps at defensive end. The Ravens and Suggs settled by agreeing to use the average of the defensive end and linebacker franchise tags.
More recently, in 2012 the Green Bay Packers avoided a fight with TE Jermichael Finley. The Pack signed Finley before the end of franchise tag designation period.
In addition, the Tennessee Titans blinked first in their staring contest with TE Jared Cook last year. Cook threatened to file a grievance seeking a WR classification because he played in the slot 56 percent of the time in 2012. The Titans melted to mortals and did not franchise Cook.
Even though Graham had foot issues this past season, the fight over money should be a non-issue for the NOS. Graham is worth every gram. He is an incredible talent, vital to the Saints’ offense, and he should be paid like a top TE and WR averaged out. It is silly to squabble over money the whole planet knows Graham deserves.
Alas, this is the NFL and on some occasions, it is more a business than a game and for Graham and the Saints, now a boxing match.
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