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Franchise-tag fight looming between Saints and Graham

Graham Getty Images

Now that the games have ended for the Saints, it’s time for a fight.

Not like the name-calling, hat-grabbing pregame brouhaha from Saturday.  A fight about money.

Tight end Jimmy Graham has completed his four-year rookie contract.  He’s due to become a free agent on March 11.  Despite the opinions of some, Graham will attract a huge offer if he hits the open market.

The Saints can keep Graham from leaving (or at least make it harder) at any point from February 17 through March 3, via the franchise tag.  But if/when the Saints apply the tight end version of the tag, the stage will be set for a fight over whether Graham should be tagged as a receiver.

The analysis should be simple.  Under Article 9, Section 2 of the CBA, “[T]he tender will apply to the position in which the player participated in the most plays.”  Thus, if Graham was lined up wide or in the slot more times than he was lined up as a tight end, he’s a receiver.

A significant difference exists between the franchise tag for receivers and tight ends; last year, it was $4.5 million.

The Saints could counter by arguing that the tight end position has changed in recent years, and that a tight end can be a tight end without lining up half the time as a tight end.  To support their argument, the Saints could calculate the tight end vs. slot/wide percentages for other tight ends on other teams who ultimately were paid as tight ends, not as receivers.

If a franchise-tag fight begins, it may not continue to a conclusion.  Two years ago, the Packers and tight end Jermichael Finley started down that path before working out a compromise.

The Saints surely hope to keep Graham, even though there’s been so sign of progress.  Two years ago, they pushed the tag process to the limit with quarterback Drew Brees, signing him to a long-term deal just before the deadline for doing so in July.

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60 Responses to “Franchise-tag fight looming between Saints and Graham”
  1. joneil66 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:38 AM

    Love this sight but this is poor journalism. No mention of what the incentive would be for Graham if he is tagged as a WR as opposed to a TE. What is the monetary difference?

  2. kingpel says: Jan 13, 2014 8:41 AM

    I don’t know. Contract sounds a lot like contact. Maybe Graham will get confused at the negotiations and just curl up into a ball.

  3. saints25 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:44 AM

    IMO, he deserves every dime he gets. he played with a injuried foot since week 6 and the Saints knew he was hurt..Its hard to play on that foot when your playing on a wet field

  4. 87hollywoodhorn says: Jan 13, 2014 8:45 AM

    He does not deserve big money, plain and simple. Let the man walk. He’s not really a wide reciever because he’s too slow to play wideout, and even in the slot he cannot generate seperation on a corner. What’s more a corner can count on pushing him around.
    A 6’7″ dude who is in no way physical? No thanks, let some other team pay him. He’s a monster in the seam when he gets played like a tight end, but we could do the same thing with a lot of other players, we got Drew Brees.
    If he’s willing to get tagged we tag him as a tight end and tell him look you gotta learn to play this position because that’s what we need you to be. He can be a great tight end, but he will not be a good wide reciever.

  5. dwntwnbadboy19 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:48 AM

    Franchise Tag him just to watch him fall asleep in playoffs? Dude did not look so good against a good defence.

  6. longsufferingbillsfan says: Jan 13, 2014 8:52 AM

    He’s the most explosive player on an offense filled with explosive players. The Saints are managed well enough to lock him up long term.

  7. pfic15 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:58 AM

    Thanks to Brees massive contract, the Saints are headed down the road of the Romos, Cutlers, E. Manning’s, Staffords, and Flaccos of the NFL> mediocre line.. No playoffs. Sorry Jimmy, you’re up and coming, but the massive deal cannot happen.

  8. dexterismyhero says: Jan 13, 2014 9:01 AM

    How many catches did he have on Saturday?

  9. hscdaw says: Jan 13, 2014 9:03 AM

    Graham’s still with the Saints? I must have missed seeing him Saturday.

  10. dynastyposeiden says: Jan 13, 2014 9:03 AM

    if you use a brick to pound nails isn’t a hammer … sort of … they should be forced to prorate the franchise tag based on the downs he lines up as a wr and the downs he lines up as a TE .
    I really don’t think it should be that difficult to figure out.

  11. daltongang1 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:04 AM

    The guy is a slow WR, therefore they should pay the man as such

  12. damaddwebba says: Jan 13, 2014 9:04 AM

    Gets the Brees demands an explanation out of the way. But it is interesting seeing the evolution of the position.

  13. doubleogator says: Jan 13, 2014 9:10 AM

    First of all until the Saints have another speedy receiver that can get deep like Kenny Stills showed he’s capable of Graham will keep seeing double coverage just like he did the second half of the season. Colston is still good, but has no speed, same goes for Moore. Graham is worth the $, and Drew Brees should seriously consider restructuring his huge salary to make room for Graham, and a couple of other high end free agents…

  14. armadaservices says: Jan 13, 2014 9:13 AM

    joneil66-The article says the difference between the tags last year was $4.5 million. And it is a “SITE” not a “SIGHT.”

  15. xxsweepthelegxx says: Jan 13, 2014 9:13 AM

    And people argue he is better than Gronk….Gronk is a MUCH more complete TE.

    The biggest knock on Gronk is he’s hurt too much but his production on Saturday night was about the same as Jimmy’s on Saturday no?

  16. greenlantern75 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:21 AM

    Interesting to see a guy who is a money red zone / 3rd down target, get treated like crap by the Saints fans here…The only thing I agree with is that Brees and that system make any receiver look good and you can probably get by letting Graham go and making an average TE look better than he should.

    Still, I don’t think Graham is an average guy and the fact that NO will probably franchise him tells you they feel the same way. Here’s hoping management feels the same way you fans do and lets him test the market. Would be a HUGE mistake.

    And for those looking at end of year performance, two things: He was playing on a bum foot for 2nd half of the season. The fact he put up the numbers he did with that foot is actually a plus for him. And two, especially after the first half of the season where he absolutely shredded defenses, he was treated as the #1 option that you had to stop…You think Colston heats up like he did in the 2nd half, if they weren’t paying so much attention to Jimmy?

  17. mysterytonite says: Jan 13, 2014 9:25 AM

    Please tell me I am not the only one who thinks this guy looks like the Albino in Banshee?

  18. nfl4days says: Jan 13, 2014 9:26 AM

    Jimmy graham is drawing double coverage against the beat secondary in football. The saints have No playmakers on the offensive side of the. All outside of sproles sometimes. Shut down graham, shut down the saints. The saints NEED another playmaker receiver. Also graham needs to work on his blocking. It’s a huge tell because he’s never in when they run the ball.

  19. 1uniquename says: Jan 13, 2014 9:29 AM

    Dude played hurt since week 6 and still balled out. Deserves to be paid like a true #1 receiver not a TE and if they dont wanna pay him come on home to Miami Jimmy we’ll gladly pay a TE like a #1 WR. Heck last year we paid a slot receiver like a #1 wideout, can’t be much worse than that lol.

  20. ultimatesaintsfan says: Jan 13, 2014 9:34 AM

    Look I love having Jimmy on our team and he has been a huge factor over last 4 seasons, but let’s not break the bank on this guy. Since Last season Bree has been so focused on him it has crippled his game. Before yoy would easily see Bree go through his progression now he focuses to much on trying to get the ball to Graham. This has led to ALOT of his turnovers. Hill is up and coming and by no means is he Jimmy Graham but he does not command a contract that will cripple the team. Sad to say but if Jimmy’s agent is asking more than 3-4.5 mil a season I say best of luck. Remember Bree makes a lot of receivers look better than they are (ex: ask SD how Meachem worked out).

    I hope Jimmy retires a Saint but I personally think its time to move on and this will make the offense even better. I know it sounds shocking but I just think Bree was a better player before Jimmy was the focal point in this offense.

  21. chut26 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:34 AM

    He had no problem going to the pro bowl as a TE, so he can get paid like one.

  22. sportsnut101 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:34 AM

    They can franchise him but do u want unhappy player who wants a long term deal playing for u. I would work out a deal

    I think teams should only be allowed to franchise once not twice.
    U are allowed to do it twice but with upgrade in pay 2nd year n the the third yr would be to much to pay him

    When u have 2 guys and sumtimes 3 guys covering u. U are doing ur job. Sumone else is open it’s the qb job to get it to that person

  23. daabsolute1 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:35 AM

    Where are the going to get the money to tag him?

  24. iamwhodat says: Jan 13, 2014 9:37 AM

    Pay the man! Add a true deep threat around him to prevent the defense from double and triple teaming him.

  25. restorativejusticeprogram says: Jan 13, 2014 9:47 AM

    Shouldn’t his position be determined by whether he shot someone or not?

  26. saintsfan1111 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:47 AM

    The problem with Jimmy Graham is he’s useless in the run game. He was out most of the Seattle game. He’s a glorified receiver, but he’s great at what he does.

  27. mudhead123 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:53 AM

    Sinbad has a son?

  28. phaktor333 says: Jan 13, 2014 10:13 AM

    Should have taken care of him early on…the Saints got greedy.

  29. 87hollywoodhorn says: Jan 13, 2014 10:14 AM

    @greenlantern
    @nfl4days

    The dude is a redzone threat in that he gets a lot of TD’s. He’s really good at beating cover 2, most safeties cannot make a play against him there. But hes no third down monster, Colston and Shockey were third down monsters. Anquan Boldin is a 3rd down monster. Graham does not excel in those tight window throws with defenders closing in on him. He doesnt play well facing the quarterback, which a big slow dude should! Two hands go vice grip that ball like Tony Gonzales.

    And as for the lack of speed at the Saints wideouts. Kinda dead on. We need competition there. Colston looks like hes still good to go without a major restructure though I have my doubts. He looked like he actually got a little speed back towards the end of the year but he can’t afford to get any slower. Lance probably has to go though I hate to say it. He gets paid a lot like 5 million a year, and he doesnt shake corners in the first 10 yards like he used to, no point in keeping a sure handed little slow guy. Stills is the truth but we need him to really take over Lance’s role rather than the Devery/Joseph Morgan role he played this year. He’s more than a deep threat real strength is route running. I imagine Morgan and Meachem will duke it out for a deep threat role and we should decide what we wanna do and pick who suits it better. Morgans the pure deep threat Meach has got some moves in the deep intermediate.
    What those wideouts is missing is a big fast young guy. I suggest we draft one in the first 3 rounds!

  30. dexterismyhero says: Jan 13, 2014 10:16 AM

    @mudhead123 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:53 AM

    Sinbad has a son?
    ==================================
    Yes!!!!!

  31. channer81 says: Jan 13, 2014 10:27 AM

    I remember Charger fans saying the exact same thing about Darren Sproles after they tagged him, and he had a decent but not stellar final year in SD. We let him walk and we regretted it from that day on. Don’t make the same mistake with a quality player like Graham, your acting like players of his caliber grow on trees. They don’t.

  32. leksington says: Jan 13, 2014 10:47 AM

    This happened with Terrell Suggs several years ago.

    He was tagged as a LB, but claimed he played most of snaps as a DE.

    Ultimately a compromise was reached and they split the difference between the LB and DE tags. I wouldn’t be surprised if Graham and the Saints reached a similar agreement.

  33. johnclaytonsponytail says: Jan 13, 2014 10:48 AM

    Even with him injured for the year he still commanded double teams especially against Seattle. He’s only been playing football for a short time and still needs to work on fundamentals. He never comes back to the ball when it’s thrown to him which allows the DB’s to make plays on it.He’s still a raw project and needs to show more discipline. His status has gotten to his head somewhat. Idon’t see Loomis letting him go though. We have a bunch of dead contracts to let go (Harper Vilma Smith Moore) and I see us grabbing a WR QB and a bunch of offensive lineman in the draft. We need to restructure some others contracts to keep this window open a fee more years

  34. phreakin says: Jan 13, 2014 10:54 AM

    Should they pay him? et’s see with this quit stat line for the year. Top 4 RECEIVERS for the Saints:

    1 – Graham
    2 – Darren Sproles
    3 – Pierre Thomas
    4 – Colston

    Yes that’s right, the top actual WR for the Saints was their 4th leading pass catcher. Beat out by 2 running backs and a tight end. So yes, pay Jimmy Graham because they don’t have many more backs to throw too. If they don’t pay him, they better spend the first 3 rounds of the draft on picking up someone to catch the ball.

  35. alexb1234 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:02 AM

    sorry if someone has already said this above but here’s an idea Saints:

    Give the guy a long term contract(he’s earned it) and don’t worry about getting into a fight with your best offensive weapon. They are risking pissing him off and him walking next year.

  36. droyer85 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:05 AM

    You’re missing the biggest point of all… Graham doesn’t want to leave and isn’t going to. No matter how much you want this to be a knockdown drag out fight in the media, it’s not gonna be like that. It’s not in Jimmy Graham’s character. He’s not a wideout, at best he’s a slot receiver. So if they made him the highest paid slot receiver he wouldn’t command huge money. He’s not an outstanding TE because his blocking skills are sub-par. He’s a hybrid. But I expect them to make him the highest paid TE, edging out Gronk slightly, and that will be it, and it won’t kill the Saints from a cap standpoint.

  37. saintswhodat318 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:05 AM

    Saints. should franchise tag Jimmy Graham & try to work out a reasonable contract around 8-9 million per year! Which is great for person who doesn’t show up in big games are blocks well! Which is suppose to be a major part of the te position. This guy needs to stop dunking & flexing his biceps and work on his craft! He’s not worth Wr money if he and his agent are dead set on that we should trade him!

  38. dreaded9214 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:08 AM

    Im assuming that most of drews passes go to jimmy, that he had an injured foot since week 6, AND that he was being TRIPPLE TEAMED BY THE FIRST AND SECOND BEST DEFENSE IN THE LEAGUE >>>TWICE<<<<. And y'all say he didn't show up souring the playoffs? How can he, he has 3 people on him, 2 at all times. Keep him. He's the X factor for the offense and has saved the team COUNTLESS times.

  39. duanehill98 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:15 AM

    Graham should get the big contract if look at the numbers he is a TE but he isnt the average one he doesnt have to fast some WR arent even fast and they have made a name for themselves in the NFL look at the production if Graham is in double coverage shouldnt that mean someone else is one on one and someone else should feel the need to step up.

  40. thebirdofprey2 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:30 AM

    The 1st game Jimmy was locked down by KJ Wright for the most part. This game Seattle rolled their coverages to stop Graham. I know Michael Bennett was heated when he fired back at Jimmy for his talk before the game.

    Graham had 14 or 15 TD’s dealing with a bad wheel. He played the best secondary in NFL and was held to a catch. It happens, but him being on the field helped Colston get 144 yards. Sure he can’t block to save his life but he makes that offense prolific along with Brees.

  41. keltictim says: Jan 13, 2014 11:32 AM

    They could go out and get a Daniel graham type TE that way they have a blocking tight end to use in running plays. It worked well for the patriots for a few years. It is kind if amazing how the patriots started this hybrid TE craze and while everyone is trying to copy it they are missing the one key fact. It only works if you don’t have the cap room to diversify your offense. By Brady constantly restructuring the pats are able to bring in other threats that open up the TE. You need a good slot guy or another TE with similar skill sets. If you over pay your QB with a monster deal your never gonna get the talent needed.

  42. imthaschmidt says: Jan 13, 2014 11:39 AM

    This guy deserves to get paid but my question is what if the TE franchise tag was worth more, would he be able to pick up that option or would he have to fight from getting tagged as a WR. does the player get to choose which way he wants to get tagged in that situation?

  43. southpaw2k says: Jan 13, 2014 11:53 AM

    Something tells me this exact potential problem was why the Patriots had locked up Gronk a couple years ago, despite his injury issues. They’d likely be facing the same kind of franchise tag issue since Gronk lines in the slot position very frequently.

  44. fasteddy85 says: Jan 13, 2014 12:31 PM

    I’m a Bears fan, but I have a lot of interest in Jimmy Graham due to the fact I had him on my Fantasy Football team (amazing how much FF keeps you interested in other teams).

    It’s quite startling to me how Saints fans are ripping him apart for not doing much in the playoffs against Seattle. Yes, he only caught one pass, but don’t you think that just MAYBE it had something to do with how good of a defense Seattle has?? Dude caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season. I don’t care if Drew Brees is your QB and that you play in a dome, that’s one HELL of a season. To simply say, “whatever, let him walk” all because he had one bad game is rather short sighted in my opinion. TE’s like him don’t just fall off of trees. Ask any other team in the NFL and they’d say they’d kill to have him.

    People have such knee-jerk reactions now a days. Man…..

  45. rubenxx7 says: Jan 13, 2014 12:36 PM

    the saints are a classy oganization, they will give him a contract extension.

  46. doubleogator says: Jan 13, 2014 1:00 PM

    Any athlete that is 6-7 and 270 can be taught to block, he’s as valuable as any tight end in the league, probably more so….

  47. justintuckrule says: Jan 13, 2014 1:10 PM

    looked like the guy put on a few pounds and slowed him down. success got to his head. let him go and find another 6’7 basketball player type who couldnt make the nba. brees will turn him into a pro bowler just as well

  48. bassplucker says: Jan 13, 2014 1:11 PM

    This guy, more than anyone else, is the reason every NFL team in the league is sending scouts to college basketball games now.

    With Gronk getting more brittle with every game he plays, Jimmie Graham is the best TE in the league. At least receiving TE. He will get paid by somebody, and he’s worth it.

  49. oreo51 says: Jan 13, 2014 1:29 PM

    Richard Sherman and the Seahawk secondary ate him up. He cannot get open when playing against the best.

  50. mdd913 says: Jan 13, 2014 1:33 PM

    People are stupid.

    Graham played on a bad foot all year, and still teams based their entire defensive game plan on making sure he was covered. if the Saints wide receivers weren’t so collectively old, slow and broken down, double-teaming Graham every play would’ve cost those defenses.

    when healthy, Graham is no less dominant than Calvin Johnson. When not healthy he still puts up a 1200 yard, 15 touchdown season. If you want to run him down for that you’re an idiot.

  51. jhop86 says: Jan 13, 2014 1:56 PM

    Doesn’t give Enough effort drop him and sigh a guy who does

  52. tommysaint1 says: Jan 13, 2014 2:00 PM

    Tough choice for the black and gold but Jimmy needs to learn to block and catch (consistently) to get paid. otherwise he is a simple redzone/ 3rd down threat.

  53. bnwpnw says: Jan 13, 2014 2:01 PM

    If he ran his routes instead of his mouth in Seattle last Saturday, he’d be in a better negotiating position this offseason.

    “I’m Jimmy.” LOL.

  54. darkneptune73 says: Jan 13, 2014 2:19 PM

    I think the Saints should pay Graham for what he’s worth….the only problem is that they’ve already overpaid Drew Brees.

  55. realitypolice says: Jan 13, 2014 2:22 PM

    Actually he could argue that he shouldn’t be labeled as a tight end because he is utterly incapable of performing one of the most basic skills necessary to be a TE, blocking.

  56. sterling7 says: Jan 13, 2014 3:02 PM

    The only thing interesting is how much will the Saints pay to a tight end who doesn’t block?

  57. marima07 says: Jan 13, 2014 5:15 PM

    He is wide receiver. Period. And a wide receiver that allows himself to get shut down in the biggest games.

  58. hiswifey4 says: Jan 13, 2014 5:53 PM

    I honestly think Graham is worthy of every cent offered to him & then some, after all lets not 4get he has been a major part of our team, aside from Brees, of course, the man played injured, dats a big deal, plus let’s also not 4get dat in out first game against Seattle this year he was the only 1 dat actually scored dat nite, dats the reason for him being Brees’ focal point

  59. genericuser8888 says: Jan 14, 2014 2:50 AM

    I’ve watched every Saints game that Jimmy Graham has ever played in.

    Pros:
    He dominates against lesser teams and middle-of-the-pack teams. He’s good for a lot of touchdowns every year, especially during regular season games with 1/2 the league can’t figure out how to contain him. He sometimes draws double teams, although coaches like Belichick have been able to contain him with very physical single coverage.

    Cons:
    Against quality teams, he struggles.
    Also, his blocking needs to improve.
    For a 6’7″ guy, he sometimes lets defenders physically dominate him.
    He just got shut down in the playoffs, twice.
    Will want a huge salary.
    Brees sometimes relies on him too much and forces to ball to him more than any other receiver, which results in near interceptions or interceptions far too often.

    Overall, I hope we keep Graham. But, I think we can make the playoffs without him, and the money we would spend on his contract would likely be much more useful if it was spread out to shore up a few key positions elsewhere.

    So, pay the man, but I *definitely* wouldn’t overpay him. Let him go handicap some other team.

    But, Payton and Brees love him, so we will probably overpay.

  60. juliusanonymous says: Jan 14, 2014 3:32 AM

    Overrated.

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