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Graham grievance would take NFL into uncharted waters

Graham Getty Images

If/when the Saints apply the franchise tag to tight end Jimmy Graham and if/when (when) Graham instantly challenges the notion that he’s a tight end, the pin will be pulled on a grenade with shrapnel that can fly in many different directions.

Ultimately, the outcome could be that Graham is an unrestricted free agent.

The labor deal, which establishes the rules for applying the franchise tag, doesn’t address the consequences for erroneous use of it.  It means that the third-party charged with resolving the dispute would have to determine the specific outcome.

The Saints surely would assume they’d be able to instantly adjust the franchise tender from tight end to receiver, if the grievance results in a finding that the strict letter of the labor deal will be applied as written, with a raw count of snaps determining Graham lined up more as a receiver than as a tight end.

But what if Graham argues that the inappropriate tender should simply be rejected?  If the window for applying the tag has closed, then the Saints wouldn’t be able to reissue the tag to Graham as a receiver.  Graham would then become an unrestricted free agent.

For that reason alone, it could make sense for the Saints to apply the franchise tag now, with both player and team seeking an expedited ruling on the issue so that the Saints could have a pre-March 3 Mulligan if Graham wins.

Alternatively, the Saints could craft the tender in a way that doesn’t specifically tag Graham as a “tight end,” deferring instead to the terms of the labor deal that determine the position (and level) at which the tender should occur.  That approach, however, would give even more credence to the idea that the proper tag is determining by counting snaps.  If snaps are counted, Graham (who took only 33 percent of his 2013 snaps lined up tight to the tackle) would be more likely to win.

Faced with the possibility, slim as it may be, that Graham could get to the open market unfettered by the franchise tag, paying Graham at the receiver level would be preferred, even if the difference is more than $4.5 million on a one-year deal.

The other potential outcome would be to simply sign Graham to a long-term deal and avoid a fight that could result in the Saints losing a lot of money — or that could result in the Saints losing Graham.

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62 Responses to “Graham grievance would take NFL into uncharted waters”
  1. espo725 says: Feb 19, 2014 8:58 AM

    Jimmy was drafted a TE, Pro Bowl TE, his Twitter bio says he’s a TE. CMON NOW. This whole situation sucks but we’ve got the best in the biz to get it done. Mickey will get it done.

  2. floratiotime says: Feb 19, 2014 9:02 AM

    The Saints don’t have a choice. Drew’s incredible greed has put a bullet in their brain.

  3. joefelicelli says: Feb 19, 2014 9:04 AM

    Who conducts the review of the grievance? If it is an entity of the NFL, no way they will rule in favor of Graham. And really, Jimmy should get the $4.5 in guaranteed money as part of a long term deal. I think the Saints should go in with the Gronk deal parameters as a starting point (8yr $55M, $13M guaranteed), but for fewer years. $7M per year total value, 5 year, guarantee the first two years, and be done with it.

    I still think the spot Graham lines up by snap count is irrelevant to his position. Tight Ends are eligible receivers on every down, so it doesn’t matter where they line up, they are still the tight end, and still capable of being targeted in the passing game.

  4. bencoates57 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:04 AM

    Is it true? Did the Broncos lose 43-8? How embarrassing! This was a team that was supposed to go 19-0. They set offensive records. They rented the Colts’ future HOF QB and the Patriots’ slot receiver. When the Pats lost SB 20 46-10, they were a Cinderella team that won 3 road games to book a date with the best defense in history. When the Broncos lost that SB, 55-10, they were … oh wait … no excuses there either.

    At 2-5 in SBs we need to consider the role altitude plays as the best home field advantage in the league. But that just sets up a disappointing finale unless the game is played a mile high.

  5. 87hollywoodhorn says: Feb 19, 2014 9:05 AM

    Thumbs up if you would give a first rounder for Graham

  6. pencilmonkeymagic says: Feb 19, 2014 9:05 AM

    Graham’s ego would take the NFL into uncharted waters.

  7. 87hollywoodhorn says: Feb 19, 2014 9:05 AM

    Thumbs up if you would give two first rounders for Graham

  8. drunkmonkey918 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:09 AM

    If Graham wants to be considered as a WR for the purpose of money, then he shouldn’t be able to count his Pro Bowls and TE receiving statistics. He might have made the Pro Bowl even as a receiver, but the fact remains he didn’t.

  9. thestrategyexpert says: Feb 19, 2014 9:10 AM

    The NFL needs a good Skipper.

  10. dukeearl says: Feb 19, 2014 9:10 AM

    Graham after the ruling goes against him…
    “but I’m Jimmy Graham!!”

  11. 5046packer says: Feb 19, 2014 9:12 AM

    He’ll get tagged as a TE, file a grievance and NFL will throw it out because it’s ridiculous. End of….

  12. mancave001 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:14 AM

    This is dumb. He’s a TE. He was drafted as one and has been listed as one. I don’t want to hear about how many snaps he lined up as a “receiver.” TE’s are basically just blocking big receivers anyway.

  13. tjacks7 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:15 AM

    Why does this even come up every year if “the strict letter of the labor deal will be applied as written, with a raw count of snaps determining Graham lined up more as a receiver than as a tight end.”

    If that’s what the rule/contract/agreement says.. Then that’s the rule. Count the raw number of snaps and see where he played more. Case closed.

  14. Pat says: Feb 19, 2014 9:16 AM

    well, the CBA clearly stipulates the tag designation will be defined by where the player lines up on the majority of the snaps, which the past two years put him as a WR 70% of the time. that’s open and shut.

    but if we really wanted to settle this, ask yourself this one question: if the Saints had to choose from here on out to line up Graham ONLY as a WR or a TE…where do you think they would choose? we all know the answer.

  15. humbleminded85 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:17 AM

    This is getting ridiculous because although these hybrid type tight ends are technically playing the slot BUT they are 1) still being matched up with backers as the 1, 2, and maybe 3 wr are still being covered by the 1, 2 , and nickel corners. 2) They are playing off the ball which keeps them from getting pressed/chucked at the line of scrimmage which ultimately gives them the ability to fly pass a middle backer with ease. Point is, if they want wr money…fine but make them play it! Put them on any side while being on the ball against fast athletic corners on every play and see how these same guys who are a dubbed “a linebackers nightmare” would become obsolete against some of the leagues finest corners. Lets see Graham, Pitta, or any other tight end go against a db EVERY play while getting jammed at the line of scrimmage. The sad part is… every last person in football knows this from the player, agent, team, and it’s coaches so it really is a loophole that needs to be fixed in the cba.

  16. godofwine330 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:18 AM

    Talk about being painted into a corner. This is one of those many situations that it is nice to have a site such as this that is run/written by a lawyer.

    The Saints, whether they like it or not are going to have to pay him like a receiver. This is the luxury of flexing him wide all of these years. Good for Graham if he wins. The downside of course is playing at least one year under the franchise tag. Ryan Clady got his contract just before he got hurt. Had he been under the franchise tag the team would have low balled him on a contract the following year.

    The player assumes all of the risk playing under the franchise tag and that is wrong. It needs to be changed. At leasxt this development that would allow Graham to get paid the way he should will get fixed.

  17. dennisatunity says: Feb 19, 2014 9:20 AM

    Here is the way it should go down.
    The Saints tag him as a TE. Graham files a grievance and they decide he can walk away. And even though Graham has just successfully fought a battle to prove that he is not a TE, another team makes him a great offer and he willingly signs it to become–what else???–a TE, of course!

  18. dcsween says: Feb 19, 2014 9:24 AM

    What is a tight end anyway? A blocker or a pass catcher? If a tight end is a blocker — an offensive lineman — shouldn’t he be franchised as an offensive lineman (i.e., at the left tackle rate)? Maybe just split the difference between the rates paid to the highest paid offensive lineman and highest paid pass catchers.

  19. r8rsfan says: Feb 19, 2014 9:26 AM

    So last game of the season – GM calls down to the HC “Line up Jason at TE the next 5 plays, he’s sitting at 51% WR plays and is gonna be a free agent”.
    Jerrah Jones would do this.

  20. kcflake says: Feb 19, 2014 9:27 AM

    Not a saints fan or anything, but Graham should be classigied as a Tight End, Not a WR for Franchise Tag purposes. If he is going to miss out on money, that is too bad. When he lined up as a WR last year against Seattle and New England, He produced Nothing. Might want to stick with Tight End Jimmy.

  21. theleaguesbest says: Feb 19, 2014 9:28 AM

    If Graham is willing to take a pay cut he can come win at least 3 Super Bowl Trophies with the Green Bay Packers.

    #13TimeWorldChamps

  22. plowking20 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:28 AM

    What are the fantasy football implications of this? Where will I be able place him in my lineup TE or WR?

  23. ejmat2 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:35 AM

    bencoates57 says:
    Feb 19, 2014 9:04 AM
    Is it true? Did the Broncos lose 43-8? How embarrassing! This was a team that was supposed to go 19-0. They set offensive records. They rented the Colts’ future HOF QB and the Patriots’ slot receiver. When the Pats lost SB 20 46-10, they were a Cinderella team that won 3 road games to book a date with the best defense in history. When the Broncos lost that SB, 55-10, they were … oh wait … no excuses there either.

    At 2-5 in SBs we need to consider the role altitude plays as the best home field advantage in the league. But that just sets up a disappointing finale unless the game is played a mile high.
    —————————————-
    Just curious. What does your post have to do with Jimmy Graham or any part of this thread?

  24. bam5239 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:40 AM

    To those thinking Graham’s case would be thrown out; you need to think again. In 2010 Richard Seymour had a similar issue with Oakland, and was designated as a DE rather than a DT based solely on snap count by a special master. The Saints are playing with fire to believe that tagging him at TE will work to their benefit. At best they’ll have to go through the process with the special master, and then still have to pay him the WR tag. As the article states he could end up an UFA and there are a number of teams that would pay to have him.

  25. ejmat2 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:42 AM

    The fact is there is language that states what he should be tagged as. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is. I personally believe a TE should be paid as a TE but if it’s a TE like Graham, pay him at the top tier of TEs. If he wants to be classified as a WR then ask his boss to change him to a WR. The truth of the matter is if he is to be a WR he wouldn’t be as effective or may not even get as many snaps. Would he be a #1, #2, #3 or #4 WR for the Saints? You have to ask that.

    But like I said, my or any other personal opinions do not matter. The language is about where he lined up like it or not. It should be changed in my opinion.

  26. cursindaily says: Feb 19, 2014 9:42 AM

    How many WRs in the NFL lined up at least 33% of the time as a TE last season?

    Zero.

    Good talk, Jimmy.

  27. jm91rs says: Feb 19, 2014 9:44 AM

    I think it would be more important to see where other players labeled “TE” lined up throughout the league, rather than just talking about lining up next to the tackle.

  28. r8drn8tn says: Feb 19, 2014 9:46 AM

    I sure wouldn’t want the people here to negotiate for me. Why should he willingly take small money? He is a hybrid TE/WR and anyone who watches the game should know that. It doesn’t matter what he is listed at it matters how they use him. He is putting his body on the line and producing at a an extremely high level. He should not feel guilty about getting paid.

    This is how capitalism works. Negotiate fair market value for your services. You don’t just undervalue yourself because you are listed as a TE.

  29. tvjules says: Feb 19, 2014 9:47 AM

    The NFL will sail through several uncharted waters this year…

    Graham/Franchise Tag
    JMart/Locker room conduct
    Playoff expansion

  30. seatownballers says: Feb 19, 2014 9:50 AM

    Saints defense is gonna take a step backwards. Brees and grahams greed will be the undoing. They can’t afford to top tier linebackers

  31. tinbender2000 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:54 AM

    Well if tight ends block at the line and receivers don’t, I guess Jimmy’s a receiver.

  32. pftmaniac says: Feb 19, 2014 9:54 AM

    The TE (Tight End) and Y (Slot Receiver) position is clearly evolving into a hybrid role, so there really isn’t much of a difference from a technical perspective because the routes and roles are very similar.

    If a player like Jimmy Graham / Dennis Pitta / Rob Gronkowski were to line up wide at X (Split End) or Z (Flanker) it would be a completely different position from a technical perspective because the routes and roles are very different.

    The easy solution is to group the TE and Y as one position and the X and Z as another for Franchise Tag purposes. Another solution is to group all 4 positions together because nobody would consider using the Franchise Tag on a blocking TE anyway. Or just eliminate the anti-competitive Franchise Tag completely.

  33. cedarstrength says: Feb 19, 2014 9:54 AM

    Every team with a $100 million QB is going to be in the same boat come free agency time. It is going to be impossible to pay pro-bowl caliber players with an anchor that big against your salary cap.

  34. kwjsb says: Feb 19, 2014 9:55 AM

    If you don’t like the rules, find another job.

  35. SeenThisB4 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:57 AM

    A TE, is a TE, is TE, and Jimmy Graham, by any other designation, is still a TE. Loomis has designated him a TE, he himself has proclaimed himself a TE, and he is, what he is: a TE. He’ll lose his grievance, if he files it, and that’s a big if.

  36. somethingsmellsrotten says: Feb 19, 2014 9:58 AM

    Just another case of ego and greed…exactly like a certain giant headed QB who just got destroyed in the SuperBowl.

  37. mbritmn says: Feb 19, 2014 10:11 AM

    I can’t imagine the Saints would be dumb enough to let Graham walk, but if they did… I’d love to see him in a Vikings uniform. Hey, a girl can dream, right!?

  38. thestatsishere says: Feb 19, 2014 10:12 AM

    I agree with the assertion that he’s a tight end and should be tagged like one.

    And anyone who thinks this is just about “money,” it isn’t. This is about CAP SPACE. Every dollar has to be accounted for and a good GM gets his team as much space as he can possibly get.

    If he gets 5 million as a tight end, it gives the Saints about 4.2 million more to work with in the offseason.

    Honestly, If I’m Graham, I’ll compromise. Tag me as a tight end, get me a sweet endorsement deal to cover the rest and then I won’t hold up the cap.

  39. renhoekk2 says: Feb 19, 2014 10:15 AM

    The NFL started this by specifying franchise tags for specific positions. Or at least agreeing to it if it was proposed by the NFLPA. They should have made one Tag for TE and WR, one for OL, One for DL etc…. Guys are always moving around and lining up in different positions. Either by design or injuries to other players. You can’t line a guy up in a formation that is traditionally designated for a WR most of the time, then try and say he’s not a WR. It doesn’t matter what the program guide or the Pro Bowl ballot says. It’s what actually took place on the field that matters.

  40. realheroeswearcamo says: Feb 19, 2014 10:20 AM

    It boils down to: What position does the man PLAY?
    If he’s drafted as a TE, his friends call him TE, his FaceBook account says he’s a TE, blah, blah, blah…

    He does the job of a WR you pay him accordingly. He does the job of a LT you pay him accordingly.

  41. southpaw2k says: Feb 19, 2014 10:25 AM

    It’s amazing how the comments here all label Graham (and to some extent Brees) as greedy simply because they want to get paid.

    Answer me this: If you’re making $70,000 a year at your current job, but you found another company willing to offer you $125,000 a year doing the same exact job, would you think twice about taking it? Would you feel like you were being greedy? Or would you turn it down, saying you’re too loyal to your current employer and how well they had treated you so far?

    It’s easy to label NFL players looking for their pay day as greedy since it’s Monopoly money to the rest of us. Stopping to consider a similar situation to everyday life puts things in perspective.

  42. chad504boy says: Feb 19, 2014 10:42 AM

    This is where it all comes down: Does “League Year” include post season play?

  43. neilandblow says: Feb 19, 2014 10:44 AM

    Didn’t the Ravens tag Suggs as a hybrid DE/LB using the average of each franchise tag? I don’t see why the Saints couldn’t do a similar thing with Graham. Create a new tag for hybrid WR/TEs.

  44. noladat says: Feb 19, 2014 10:52 AM

    The real question is how many times do the top 5 wrs line up at te?

    I am not gonna bother to look it up cuz it is surely almost never!

    Pay him as a wr if he plays the wr spot as much as the top five wrs do!

  45. lionsmark09 says: Feb 19, 2014 11:18 AM

    He can join Lombardi in Detroit.

  46. flannlv says: Feb 19, 2014 11:46 AM

    The idea that the special hearing master would unilaterally declare Graham an UFA due to a designation error (if it is so decided by this special hearing master) is absurd.

  47. justintuckrule says: Feb 19, 2014 12:02 PM

    More ridiculousness. How do you count the times he was lined up tight but in a two pt stance? Trip set? Started in a 3 pt stance in tight and motioned out?

    He’s not a TE or a WR. Create a new designation and pay him the difference. Done.

  48. dynastyposeiden says: Feb 19, 2014 12:04 PM

    with goodell steering the ship into any water … take a life raft

  49. dynastyposeiden says: Feb 19, 2014 12:06 PM

    southpaw2k says:
    Feb 19, 2014 10:25 AM
    It’s amazing how the comments here all label Graham (and to some extent Brees) as greedy simply because they want to get paid.

    Answer me this: If you’re making $70,000 a year at your current job, but you found another company willing to offer you $125,000 a year doing the same exact job, would you think twice about taking it? Would you feel like you were being greedy? Or would you turn it down, saying you’re too loyal to your current employer and how well they had treated you so far?

    It’s easy to label NFL players looking for their pay day as greedy since it’s Monopoly money to the rest of us. Stopping to consider a similar situation to everyday life puts things in perspective.

    exactly why these doofus boys root for the owners is beyond me ….that is like rooting for the dealer in blackjack

    just jealous I suppose

  50. seattlelibtard says: Feb 19, 2014 12:20 PM

    Do wide receivers line up as tight ends? If not, Graham is a TE.

  51. 6thsense10 says: Feb 19, 2014 12:45 PM

    What does the CBA say. People stop the madness. It doesn’t matter that you think Graham should be tagged as a TE. All that matters in this case, the ONLY thing that matters is what is written in the CBA. And it clearly states the tagged is to be applied base on the position a player lines up in the MAJORITY of the time. Not all the time…the majority of the time. If you don’t agree with that that’s ok but you can’t just ignore the legally binding CBA. If you want to down that road what else in the CBA do you think can be ignored?

  52. bigjdve says: Feb 19, 2014 12:51 PM

    Sign him to a deal, then never let him line up anywhere but against the line. Watch his numbers drop, then you can pay him whatever you like because any perceived value will be gone.

  53. infinitig says: Feb 19, 2014 12:51 PM

    It’s ok for Drew Brees to get paid huge money but not ok for Jimmy. I remember that Drew filed a grievance that would have got him more money after the tag was placed on him.

  54. saintsallday says: Feb 19, 2014 1:01 PM

    Its hard to put you at tight end all the time if you can’t properly block.

  55. doe22us says: Feb 19, 2014 1:05 PM

    In the end he will sign a long-term deal and will be the highest paid TE in the game, or top 2.. End of story, all this is just semantics and a waste of time frankly. Oh but he is a TE, no he is a WR, come on now.

  56. salmen76 says: Feb 19, 2014 1:14 PM

    Let Jimmy the whiner walk. Take the compensatory picks and draft or sign some tough O linemen and a couple star linebackers. This draft is wide receiver deep. It would be a lot cheaper to sign a young tough “Wide Receiver” and just use him in the same role Jimmy was used. When that guy becomes a star and demands gobs of money let him walk too and start the process over. The Saints won their SB without Jimmy the whiner. Who needs him? Improvise, adapt, overcome. Geaux Saints!

  57. granadafan says: Feb 19, 2014 1:16 PM

    If they’re using Jimmy more than a mere tight end, then he ought to be compsented as such. Either tight ends are underpaid, WRs are vastly OVERpaid, or a combination of both.

  58. dryzzt23 says: Feb 19, 2014 1:21 PM

    Greedy Graham…..take one for the team James, especially if you ever want to get to or win a Super Bowl.

  59. djshnooks says: Feb 19, 2014 1:49 PM

    Hell no I’d give up a 1st round pick for Jimmy Graham, certainly not 2 first rounders…especially not this year.

    I’d rather draft Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins…who all have the potential of Graham…but they would be playing on rookie contracts.

    THAT is how a good GM would think….THAT is why Seattle is so good.

    (And I’m not even a Seahawks fan.)

  60. qdog112 says: Feb 19, 2014 1:57 PM

    This is funny. The position designation is based on where a player lines up. That’s simple enough.

    Who cares what he is listed as in the program or the depth chart. So idiot even suggested that his fantasy position should matter. Well I play Yahoo and they give the options for many positions, why can’t Graham be listed as WR/TE?

    If it didn’t matter where a players lines up, it wouldn’t be in the CBA.

  61. harveyredman says: Feb 19, 2014 2:04 PM

    Maybe they should just let him walk and give Drew Brees a raise. After all, everyone knows all you need in the League to win is an “elite” QB. Everyone else is just a pawn in this QB Football League.

    I mean look how well it worked out this past SB when you had a $100M QB and also arguably the GOAT … lol

  62. ravissevens says: Feb 19, 2014 4:14 PM

    Where’s anything concrete that the Saints aren’t going to pay him?
    Settle down children.

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