When Saints tight end Jimmy Graham didn’t immediately file a grievance challenging the amount of his franchise tag, it appeared that he didn’t want to inflame the situation pending efforts to work out an acceptable long-term deal.
Ultimately, it appeared that Graham would wait to see whether the Saints sign him to a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline. Absent a long-term deal, Graham then could have filed his grievance as of July 16.
So why file now?
Apart from the impact the resolution of the grievance may have on negotiations regarding a long-term deal (and if Graham wins he definitely gets more leverage), the move provides the rest of the league with a clear reminder that, after teams use their first-round picks on Thursday night, they can fatten their offseason haul by signing Graham to an offer that, if not matched by the Saints, would cost first-round picks in 2015 and 2016.
For teams with General Managers on the hot seat, signing Graham becomes an intriguing possibility. If the G.M. won’t be around to use the 2015 and 2016 picks anyway, who cares about sending them to the Saints? Given that it’s very rare nowadays for General Managers to be fired by one team and then to become General Managers with another team, guys who have those jobs sometimes need to make bold moves to keep those jobs.
Intriguing options include the Texans (who with the right moves in 2014 will be picking a lot lower in 2016), the Browns (who seem to be intent on making a splash, somehow), the Raiders (whose G.M. clearly needs a big year), the Falcons (where snagging Graham from the arch-rivals in New Orleans to replace Tony Gonzalez would send shock waves through the league), the Bills (whose G.M. soon will have a new boss), the Lions (who seem to be intent on finding a Jimmy Graham for new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi), and the Giants (whose G.M. seems to realize that time is running out, and who could use the weapon for Eli Manning).
The challenge would be to craft a deal the Saints wouldn’t be able to match. Currently, the Saints have $3.4 million in cap space. Of the team listed above, the Texans have $12.5 million, the Browns have a whopping $29.1 million, the Raiders have $12.7 million, the Falcons have $8.4 million, the Bills have $13.5 million, the Lions have only $1.369 million, and the Giants have $3.9 million.
Teams that easily could pilfer Graham with an offer the Saints couldn’t match include the Bengals ($23.7 million), the Jaguars ($27.2 million), the Dolphins ($16.3 million), the Jets ($23.7 million), and the Eagles ($20.2 million). Ultimately, the question for those teams becomes whether there’s a reason to give up first-round picks in 2015 and 2016 at a time when none of their General Managers are in obvious (or grave) danger of being fired.