When it comes to big-name players in line for big-money contracts, the Saints like to bide their time.
In the case of tight end Jimmy Graham, that could be an expensive proposition.
Through three weeks of the 2013 season, Graham has taken more snaps at a receiver alignment than as a tight end. By our count, thanks to the NFL’s Game Rewind feature, Graham has taken 69 snaps tight to the tackle and 95 snaps either in the slot or split wide.
That’s 57.57 percent of all snaps coming as a receiver. If the percentage remains north of 50, Graham will have a strong argument for the receiver franchise tag, which in 2012 reflected a $4.5 million difference on a one-year guaranteed deal.
Over the next 13 games, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Saints try to get that ratio under control, with Graham lining up more often as a tight end. Even if the motivation is to ensure that he remains a tight end for franchise-tag purposes, the analysis is a simple one. As explained in Article 9, Section 2 of the CBA, “[T]he tender will apply to the position in which the player participated in the most plays.”
Graham may not be the only one fighting the issue come 2014. In 2012, the Packers and tight end Jermichael Finley resolved a dispute over Finley’s tight end tag with a two-year contract. It expires this year, and the two sides could be at it again.
For the Saints and Graham, the question becomes when New Orleans will see fit to commit. If Graham’s camp already is pushing for Graham to be paid like a receiver (and we suspect that Graham’s camp is), the Saints have no reason not to wait until July 15, the deadline for signing a franchise player — whether tagged as a receiver or a tight end — to a multi-year deal.