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Looming franchise-tag fight has silver lining for Saints

Graham AP

As the Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham prepare for an inevitable showdown on the question of whether Graham is a tight end or receiver for franchise-tag purposes, the Saints have some good news.

The Saints apparently won’t be risking an outcome that includes Graham becoming a unrestricted free agent.

There had been a school of thought in league circles that, if the Saints tender Graham as a tight end and Graham successfully proves that he’s a receiver under the standard contained in Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the labor deal, the third-party resolving the issue could declare that the Saints swung and missed, and that they don’t get another chance to tag Graham the right way.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who previously reported that if the Saints tender Graham as a tight end he’ll immediately file a grievance arguing that he’s actually a receiver, now admits that the Saints wouldn’t actually be tendering Graham at any specific position at all.

Per Rapoport, the standard letter informing the player of the use of the franchise tag doesn’t designate the position at which he’s being tendered.

Moreover, a league source tells PFT that the Saints would indeed tag Graham generally, and that the league would then determine whether he’s tendered as a tight end or as a receiver.

The initial designation comes, as we understand the process, from the NFL’s Management Council.  So if the Management Council decides Graham is a tight end, Graham and the NFLPA would then challenge the designation.  If Graham wins, the designation presumably would be altered without the Saints having to re-issue the tag.

None of this stops Graham from arguing that the remedy for an erroneous franchise-tender designation isn’t changing the number to the higher amount but scuttling the tag completely.  Still, if the Saints don’t specifically tag Graham as a tight end, that argument becomes more difficult.

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14 Responses to “Looming franchise-tag fight has silver lining for Saints”
  1. mattseas says: Feb 26, 2014 3:40 PM

    Saints should sign him long term. It can keep his cap hit lower for this year. Graham would still get more guaranteed money than being franchised as a WR.

  2. thestrategyexpert says: Feb 26, 2014 3:54 PM

    But if the league tenders him as a WR, then won’t the Saints challenge that ruling? They seem to be pretty convinced he’s a TE, so I’m not sure how or why the league would come to a different conclusion. The Saints wouldn’t even be trying to tag him as a TE if they didn’t have a foundation to support that. And when the snap count numbers were last reported it sounded like he took more snaps as a TE than any other position, and the CBA says you go with the position that has the highest snap count.

    The Saints surely looked at those numbers and the TE count was highest, otherwise they wouldn’t have come out and said he’s a TE, end of story?

  3. imbetteratlifethanyou says: Feb 26, 2014 3:59 PM

    Dude is soft – doesn’t block and cries like a baby if he’s “held onto” a little bit.

  4. dukeearl says: Feb 26, 2014 4:01 PM

    That position the NFL takes makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, so it is probably true.

  5. dukeearl says: Feb 26, 2014 4:04 PM

    Based on what I saw, he only played a third of the snaps at TE.
    Everybody that watched the Saints knows that he doesn’t block anything.

    Sounds like a WR to me.

  6. orezybedivid says: Feb 26, 2014 4:07 PM

    I think hes great, but I don’t think he’s worth 12 million a year (like the report I read says he’s asking for) though. I honestly don’t think he can go to another team and put up the same kind of numbers.

  7. briang123 says: Feb 26, 2014 4:17 PM

    If one only watched the Saints playoff games they would have no idea who this guy is and why all the fuss over him.

  8. genericuser8888 says: Feb 26, 2014 4:21 PM

    Defense wins Superbowls. Look at the last few Superbowls – 4 out of 5 games, the superior defense won.

    We’ve got enough tied up in offense with Drew Brees. Last time, we won the Superbowl with Drew Brees and a retirement age Jeremy Shockey.

    We need to pick up another good TE in free agency or make do with what we have.

    I hate to say it, but trade Graham. The compensation, picks, cap relief, whatever you get, will help the team out a lot more in the long run, especially if that money is put toward defensive players.

    Drew Brees contract, alone, has almost crippled the team. If you add another huge contract on offense, we’ll be even worse off on defense. Drew and Jimmy couldn’t get it done this year, what makes everybody think they will be able to in the future? It seems to me that great defenses (Seahawks) have managed to handle our offense with ease.

    So, if Graham won’t take a respectable offer. Trade him. Get a couple of high picks and some cap relief, stock up on defense and in the draft, and the team will be a lot better in the long run.

    Besides, Drew has become too reliant on Jimmy. He forces the ball too often. Jimmy doesn’t block very well either. He’s a great player, and seems to be a nice guy. But overall, my gut feeling is that we would be better with an improved defense and a bunch of picks over a huge JG contract.

    The Saints can seriously upgrade MULTIPLE positions through the draft or cap relief, or re-sign Jimmy. …I like Jimmy, but I don’t believe in crippling the franchise because of his contract.

  9. theclink12 says: Feb 26, 2014 4:25 PM

    I wouldn’t pay him big money…he isn’t a big game player.

    Look at the Saints 6 biggest games last year. Carolina x2, Seattle x2, San Fran, and Philly.

    Graham’s totals for those 6? 44 catches, 266 yds, 4 TDs. That averages out per game to 4 for 44 and .66 TDs.

    Hardly worth big money. He is just a stat stuffer against lesser teams.

  10. flannlv says: Feb 26, 2014 4:50 PM

    As I said in previous articles, PFT was the only outlet saying the Saints could lose Graham for an incorrect designation. Glad to see a little research was finally done.

  11. nolahxc says: Feb 26, 2014 4:59 PM

    Not a popular opinion in New Orleans, but I’d trade him for picks.

    He is the ultimate “sell-high” player. Drew Brees has elevated so many of these offensive skill guys, and Jimmy is no exception. If Drew doesn’t put the ball where only Jimmy can get it, Jimmy isn’t winning the fight for the ball as often as the top “TE” should be.

    But Drew Brees’s kids wear Jimmy Graham’s jersey so he probably won’t be going anywhere.

  12. musicman495 says: Feb 27, 2014 1:44 PM

    If he truly wants to be a free agent and play somewhere else, he is not as smart as I thought he was. Dude needs to talk to Robert Meachem about pass catchers who make a name for themselves with the Saints, leave for greener pastures, then come crawling back when it does not work out.

  13. ggametoo says: Feb 27, 2014 2:52 PM

    For all those who say trade him – He isn’t under contract, that’s the whole point of free agency. He can’t be traded because he is not under contract.

    Also – Drew Brees is well worth the money he was paid. He earned it and continues to earn it. He’s not even in the top-5 paid quarterbacks and yet he is in the top-5 quarterbacks in terms of performance (many have said he’s top 3).

    Saints fans – I think you’ve forgotten who the Saints used to be.

  14. councilofargos says: Feb 27, 2014 9:39 PM

    Last year was a different year for Graham, he played a lot of the year injuried. So he couldnt do his normal role. I feel he deserves Gronkowski type money around $10 million a year. He is noticeable better than most tight ends except Gronk. He is healtheir than Gronk. both do have the advantage of having HOF QBs throwing to them. But I feel Graham is easily more explosive than Dennis Pita who is a good tight end. But he cannot do what Megatron, Jones, and Bryant can do. The upcoming Josh Gordon is really really fast.

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