NFL officially applies tight end tag to Jimmy Graham

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The league has officially announced the full list of franchise-tagged and transition-tagged players for 2014.  The biggest name belongs to the player for whom the biggest fight is looming.

The NFL’s Management Council has decided to deem Jimmy Graham a tight end for purposes of the franchise tag.  It sets the stage for a grievance to be filed by Graham and the NFLPA arguing that, based on the language of the labor deal, Graham is actually a receiver.

The league’s release even quotes the relevant language from the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which states that the tender will be based on “the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.”

Graham will argue that he lined up more as receiver than as a tight end in 2013. The Saints will argue that tight ends routinely line up in the slot or split wide, but that this doesn’t make them something other than tight ends, since only tight ends line up tight to the tackle.

In other words, the Saints hope to persuade the System Arbitrator to find that, when Graham lines up in the slot or split wide, he’s still participating in those plays as a tight end.

Whatever the outcome, the issue has been lingering for the last few years. At some point, a resolution is needed, either through arbitration or an amendment to the labor deal.

For the Saints and Graham, more than $5.2 million hangs in the balance. While the two sides can resolve the situation at any time with a long-term deal, Graham could decide to let it ride. Regardless of the outcome, he’s going to make far more than the $3.3 million he has received in four NFL seasons.

41 responses to “NFL officially applies tight end tag to Jimmy Graham

  1. Hope Graham wins this. Maybe that will stop the Saints from sending him out to “block”. Definitely not his strong suit.

  2. The league’s release even quotes the relevant language from the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which states that the tender will be based on “the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.”

    What’s the point of having this agreement if it’s not used.

  3. As well they should have…that’s what he is after all. All a bunch of nonsense.

  4. What a joke. What’s next, teams applying the franchise tag on QBs as FBs in order to lower the cap hit?

  5. If the saints want to go this route and fight jimmy graham, why would he want to stay in N.O.? I’d be gone the 1st chance I got if I was him.

  6. jimnaizeeum says:
    Mar 3, 2014 8:19 PM
    But he is a tight end….am I missing something?

    Yup.

    The CBA clearly states (and it’s in the article) that no matter what the team calls them, the player will be tagged at the position where he took the most snaps.

    Graham took 65% of his snaps lined up at wide reciever. Hence, according to the CBA, he should be franchise tagged as a reciever.

  7. wiskybuck …..the point is that the League is interrupting the CBA language to mean that even when lining up in a traditional WR position that a TE is still playing as a TE and that play counts as a TE play. They may lose in arbitration, but I would bet that they have a preliminary opinion from someone thinking that they will win.

  8. lol this is so dumb….you’re a TE chief. you went to Hawaii multiple times in that position

  9. I actually like the Saints’ argument. Since Graham’s agent will argue he should be a WR because he played more snaps in the slot, the Saints will counter by saying it’s part of a tight end’s responsibilities to play the slot position now and no true slot receiver ever lines up next to the tackle. Pretty good case on the Saints’ behalf.

  10. Both receivers and tight ends in this league line up outside frequently. If the tight end tag only applies to blocking tight ends that excludes half the tight ends in the league, and also means that if a blocking tight end is ever franchise tagged the tag should be about $2 million a year because it should exclude the salaries of receivers like Graham, Davis, Thomas, Finley, Gronkowski, Gonzalez, Pettigrew, Cook, Whitten, etc, etc, etc. Under this argument, obscure blocking TEs should start making the pro bowl, but face tags at punter prices. Under a more reasonable argument, since where they line up on the field doesn’t differentiate TEs and WRs well, who they line up across from could better define the ‘position at which they parcipate.’ WR is the ‘across from a CB’ outside position and TE is the ‘across from a S or LB’ outside or against the tackle position. Calvin Johnson was not covered by S or LB on many plays, Graham was on most. He is a great TE, but he is a TE, and that is not defined by what grass he stood on, but by who he stood across from on that grass. A punter and a QB stand on the same grass, and both are eligable to throw or punt, but they face different coverages due to how opposing defenses assess their skills.

  11. A punter and a QB stand on the same grass, and both are eligable to throw or punt, but they face different coverages due to how opposing defenses assess their skills. Punt returns don’t line up against Peyton Manning to wait for a pooch punt, linebackers don’t cover Calvin Johnson, linebackers and safeties do line up against Jimmy Graham. If Graham is a receiver, punters are quarterbacks.

  12. wiskybuck….part of the TE position is lining up at outside. Gonzales, Finley and Gates all line up in slot more than next to the line.

  13. The CBA clearly states (and it’s in the article) that no matter what the team calls them, the player will be tagged at the position where he took the most snaps.

    Graham took 65% of his snaps lined up at wide reciever. Hence, according to the CBA, he should be franchise tagged as a receiver.

    ——————————————-

    By that strict application many players would have to be reclassified.

    Tony Gonzales–the guy who has set the standard for TE play and who’s last yrs contract set the bar along with gronk for the franchise tag for th position–played the last two years lined up as WR the majority of the time.

    The position is changing. TE line up at RB, FB, TE, and WR. Should you average the pay of those positions to come up with a composite number?

    How many WR line up as TE? This is disqualifying by itself.

    Should Wildcat QBs get compensated as QBs for the proportion of snaps they took as QB?

    This is ridiculous.

    There are positions and they are set. How teams use the players innovatively is another dimension but doesn’t change the classical position.

    If graham wants to be a WR designate. Fine. Then eliminate him from all honors and awards given to TE including pro bowls, all pro and the right to be inducted into the HOF as a TE. Give up that right and be a WR where i’m guessing he won’t be HOF.

    Even his twitter page says Jimmy Graham TE Saints to this day.

  14. This designation may be technically correct, I’m not certain, however it doesn’t seem ethically accurate. In addition, I wonder why any team would seemingly go out of its way to thump one of the best and most instrumental players on the team? I do realize that business is business, however this is penny wise and needlessly foolish on the surface of things. Even if a long-term contract is not feasible in the minds of The Saints at this time, couldn’t they offer to at least split the difference or something along those lines? Why take a chance on a disgruntled player this crucial to the offense? Aren’t teams throughout the league constantly carping about potential “distractions?” Perhaps this applies only when the PLAYER causes the “distraction” however not when the TEAM does little or nothing to blunt a dicey situation.

  15. “It sets the stage for a grievance to be filed by Graham and the NFLPA arguing that, based on the language of the labor deal, Graham is actually a receiver.”
    ****************
    It’s written in plain language, so the Saints can’t hide behind any vagueness. There will be “fans” who side with management, no matter what. If you can read, you’re on the wrong side.

    The man is a WR.

  16. Is there a law that TE’s can never be split out wide?

    The guys a TE. Regardless of whatever technicality he tries to use.

    WR’s never line up next to the tackle. He did a fair amount.

  17. Id say hes more receiver than TE and his stats over the last couple of years prove that. The Saints will lose this battle if they fight it to the end. Bet?

  18. “60% of the time he was lined up in the slot or split wide” My question is was there someone playing the tight end position on those plays where he was in the slot of split wide? If so, he wins. If not, I can see the argument is not so clear cut.

  19. He’s never thrown a block he has every right to be mad he’s like gates nowhere near a te give me a complete te like witten any day over a wr called a te

  20. If he’s a WR how does he get voted to the pro bowl as a TE? Seems crazy to me that there is even a debate, dude is a TE no doubt about it.

  21. A WR can’t line up tight to the line. That wouls be illegal formation. So please, people, stop saying that. If Graham wins the grievance, he will still come in the game as a TE, still go to the Probowl as a TE, and still break records as a TE, so again people, please stop with the nonsense. What the arbitrator will key in on, and will ultimately get JG WR money, is the IMPACT he has when playing slot and wide out. The man caught more passes than a lot o teams #1 WR. THAT’s why he deserves the WR tag.

  22. People citing pro bowl trips, Twitter/Facebook page, TE records, college listing, his size, his number anything else, but the CBA definition, are a testament to our failed school system.

    When you’re proven wrong, don’t cling to it. Come back and admit you didn’t know what the hell you were writing about.

  23. For those of you saying, “The Saints are being jerks by not saying he’s a WR” and similar statements-

    The Saints didn’t designate him as anything. You obviously don’t know how the system works. Teams only “Tag” the player. The league is the one that determines the position. No more, no less.

  24. And he would probably argue he was a TE if the money was there.

    Still. He’s listed as a TE. Just because he lines up wide doesn’t change that, it’s just part of the play to make match-ups favor the offense. The only thing that makes him good is that he is a TE that lines up out wide. If he was an actual WR I don’t think he’d be as good.

    This whole thing is just stupid to me…

  25. Let’s say the Saints win this one, that he is officially a TW. Will they use him as a WR or TE in the future? If he gets paid as a TE and try to use him as a WR with TE money, what legal recourse does he have against the Saints.

    Isn’t that like a FB being used as a QB but getting paid FB money. It’s ludicrous to use QB to make a point, but isn’t that the basis of Graham’s argument?

  26. He fits the description of a modern tight end but the CBA is black and white and he lined up more as a receiver..there is no gray area to argue the position has evolved….it’s in the collective bargaining agreement

  27. This is how lawyers make ridiculous amounts of money for themselves.

    You’re a tight end, not a safety. That’s what the clause in the CBA means: not parsing whether a mobile QB is a running back, etc…etc..etc…

    I hope Graham wins. And first game of the season, when he lines up next to a lineman, the refs throw a flag for illegal formation.

  28. the comments here are amazing. lets go back to the split t formation, which is where the designation tight end comes from.

    in those days there was a quarterback, a halfback, a fullback and a player called a flanker back, who was the wide on one side. on that side you also had a tight end lined up as a blocker immediately to the side of the tackle. this was the strong side of the formation. the other reciever was a split end, and he was split wide like the flanker, only lined up on the line of scrimmage.

    nowadays we don’t differentiate between wides; flankers and split ends are interchangeable. this is because thats how coaches began using them.

    graham is arguing that his designation is wrong because they are using him as an interchangeable part. saints are violating spirit of rule that acknowledges that where player lines up is more dispositive than position name. to me seems stupid in the long term to alienate your second most important player to me, when splitting the difference would seem reasonable.

  29. Maybe Brees can just throw the ball to himself. He is making the salary of like 10 guys. You pay your QB over $22M a year, and then don’t have enough cap room to long-term the best guy he has to throw to?

    This league has gone bananas. When 2nd/3rd tier guys like Cutler, Stafford, Bradford (albeit on his stupi.d rookie deal), Ryan and Romo are making 20% of the cap things have skewed too far to the QB’s.

    Has the SB been forgotten already? An “all-time” hero got dominated by a team defense, and played worse than a 2nd year, 3rd round draft choice who really only needed to make a couple good plays on 3rd down.

    It takes a TEAM to win. Stop paying these QB’s so much and just maybe your team will have a chance. Or you can Flacco your team right out of the playoffs.

  30. So let me get this straight. If the wr position was paid less than te would he still argue about this? Of course not just another spoiled athlete wanting the cake and eat it too.

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