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.