It’s been four days since the NFL’s Management Council applied the tight end version of the tag to Graham. And yet there has been no grievance, immediate or otherwise.
So what’s going on? We’ve identified two possible explanations.
First, Graham and his agents may be waiting for a possible offer sheet. If, as of 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, another team presents Graham with a multi-year deal that he accepts, it doesn’t matter whether he’s tagged as a tight end or a receiver. The offer sheet trumps the designation, if/when Graham signs it.
Second, Graham and the Saints could be working toward a long-term deal. By not pulling the pin on the grievance grenade, the process can proceed with Graham being valued as a hybrid tight end/receiver on a long-term deal that pays Graham with the stroke of a pen much more money than he has earned in his entire four-year NFL career. And if the possibility of a grievance that Graham could win merely looming but not activated, it’s easier for both sides to proceed in an amicable way, without the Saints having to make arguments at arbitration that could get under Graham’s skin.
Graham doesn’t seem to be looking for a fight. He has never complained about his situation, even after two tight ends drafted in his class (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) got long-term contract. Graham didn’t point out that he hasn’t gotten paid when Gronkowski suddenly couldn’t stay on the field and when Hernandez couldn’t stay among the free. Graham never complained about bearing the risk of injury for four full seasons of football.
The only thing Graham ever has said about his situation is that he’s not “keen” on the franchise tag. That’s it. He hasn’t said the Saints aren’t treating him fairly, and he hasn’t tried to ruffle feathers via media leaks. He’s happy in New Orleans, he wants to stay, and he’s not inclined to push the situation to the limit.
So it’s possible that Graham himself has decided not to finalize the battle lines by filing the grievance, in the hopes that the Saints will make him a fair offer on a long-term deal.
The only problem with that possibility is that the Saints, like most teams, operate on deadlines. The deadline, under the labor deal, arises in 50 days from the application of the tight end version of the franchise tag. Graham may not want to wait 50 days for the deal to get done, especially once other players start signing big-money contracts starting Tuesday.