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NFL strident about Graham grievance

Graham Getty Images

Here’s a shock.  The NFL feels very strongly about its position in the Jimmy Graham grievance.

When it comes to legal matters, the league rarely lacks in confidence.  And for good reason; the league rarely loses.

That said, the NFL easily could lose the Graham case.  But the unnamed league source that spoke to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com doesn’t sound concerned about defeat in a fight that has more than $5 million hanging in the balance.

“The union’s position is a naked cash grab,” the unnamed league source told Triplett.  “It ignores Mr. Graham’s use as a traditional tight end on roughly 60 percent of the snaps where he lined up within four yards of the tackle.  It also ignores the historical use of the tight end position.

“Since the days of Mike Ditka, coaches have split the tight end wide to gain information about the defensive set and gain a matchup advantage.  According to the union’s position, last year’s All-Pro tight end was not a tight end and Mike Ditka was a wide receiver.”

The union’s position flows from the letter of the labor deal negotiated and signed by the two parties.  The language is clear.  A franchise player will be designated based on the position at which he participated in the most plays during the prior league year.

While we’ve yet (and don’t plan) to study game film from the 1960s to see how many times Mike Ditka lined up tight to the end of the line (ergo, “tight end”) or in the slot or split wide, the issue isn’t nearly as clear as the league believes.  If the system arbitrator, subject to appeal to a three-person panel, finds after next week’s hearing that the snaps taken by Graham in the slot constitute plays in which he participated as a receiver, Graham wins.  If the system arbitrator, subject to appeal, finds that the tight end position includes snaps in the slot, Graham loses.

It’s hardly as cut-and-dried as Triplett’s unnamed source suggests.  And to the extent it’s a “naked cash grab,” so be it.  The NFL routinely makes “naked cash grabs,” like when it dictates terms for the potential Super Bowl host cities.  Moreover, the folks who own NFL teams didn’t get to that point without making a few naked and/or fully-clothed and/or scantily-clad cash grabs.

At best, the NFL allowed an ambiguity to creep into the labor deal on this point.  At worst, the NFL created the same kind of loophole that results in centers and guards being paid franchise-player wages at the same level of the league’s elite left tackles because the league inexplicably agreed to lump offensive lineman into one category.

The league may still win this.  But the chances of losing are far greater than Triplett’s source will concede.

If the league’s position were so clear, the Packers would have pushed the issue two years ago with Jermichael Finley.  Likewise, the Titans wouldn’t have blinked in 2013 with Jared Cook.  In both cases, the NFL’s Management Council wouldn’t and couldn’t give the kind of guarantee that Triplett’s source is selling.

Which means that Triplett’s source may not really be quite so confident, and that the quotes are instead aimed at persuading the public to view Graham as greedy.

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50 Responses to “NFL strident about Graham grievance”
  1. thepftpoet says: Jun 10, 2014 9:01 PM

    Jimmy Graham isn’t even the best Tight End in the NFL.

    Kyle Rudolph > Everyone else.

  2. ridingwithnohandlebars says: Jun 10, 2014 9:04 PM

    He is listed as a tight end on both his official website and twitter profile.

  3. jibberator says: Jun 10, 2014 9:10 PM

    I’m more interested, does he count as a TE still in fantasy?

  4. misterfuji1982 says: Jun 10, 2014 9:12 PM

    The NFL certainly knows all about naked cash grabs.

  5. theneedforspeeed says: Jun 10, 2014 9:18 PM

    So he is OK with the title of All Pro Tight End, except when it comes to being paid?

  6. raiderapologist says: Jun 10, 2014 9:25 PM

    When it comes to legal matters, the league rarely lacks in confidence. And for good reason; the league rarely loses.
    ————
    The league learned their litigation skills from Al Davis.

  7. vicnocal says: Jun 10, 2014 9:25 PM

    Wow, Florio actually said something not-so-flattering about the League and its money-grubbing ways. I did not expect that.

  8. reporterofthetruth says: Jun 10, 2014 9:29 PM

    Tight End

  9. FinFan68 says: Jun 10, 2014 9:31 PM

    Ask the union where a TE can line up legally during an offensive play–that should end the argument. The language doesn’t seem it was meant for this ambiguous argument. It is more likely meant for those situations where a player converts to a new position, plays more than one position, or was used by the team at a different position out of necessity (like the Pats did when their WRs were playing CB) I believe the league is correct but any judge or jury can hand down a nonsensical judgment

  10. 4thandlonger says: Jun 10, 2014 9:36 PM

    Needs to be 2 different positions:

    1. Blocking TE, rarely plays anywhere but close to tackle. Only catches less than X amount of passes

    2. Receiving TE, plays greater than 25 etc% of snaps more than 4 yards from tackle, catches X amount of passes

    It’s unfair on the great receiving TE’s that they don’t get paid the same as WR’s when they are as vital if not more to an offense and it’s all because there are a lot of mugs who are just light weight back up tackles who catch a few simple passes a season

  11. jimthebuilder27 says: Jun 10, 2014 9:44 PM

    If Jimmy Graham is unhappy with the TE franchise tag salary, I’ll take it for him.

    Wish I could make that kind of money!

  12. bcajun says: Jun 10, 2014 9:57 PM

    Jimmy you are a TE

  13. 6thsense10 says: Jun 10, 2014 9:58 PM

    All this smoke and mirrors by the league. What does the CBA say? This isn’t something the league can manipulate like the collusion during the period there wasn’t any CBA that lead them to unjustly fine my Skins and the Cowboys. The CBA will guide this.

  14. jjb0811 says: Jun 10, 2014 10:31 PM

    He is a slot wr; great w/o pressure and terrible when applied.

  15. buccaneerjeremy says: Jun 10, 2014 10:36 PM

    Common sense says “if you’re a all pro at tight end” you should be getting tight end money under the tag. If Graham wants Wr money, fine let him not go down as a All Pro at tight end then. It’s basic common sense I would think.

  16. KIR says: Jun 10, 2014 10:40 PM

    This guy has been underpaid his entire career. The Saints should be ashamed of themselves for not offering him a market value contract.

  17. justintuckrule says: Jun 10, 2014 10:44 PM

    I hope graham kicks these arrogant, nickel and diming owners rearends. This isn’t 1967. The owners created a scoring league to raise revenue and are trying to pay the players as ancient relics. There’s no such thing as a tight end anymore. Pay the man what he is. An oversized receiver!

  18. terrybradshawisdead says: Jun 10, 2014 10:46 PM

    Graham is a top 5 TIGHT END which is $7-12M range

    Graham is a top 40 Wide Receiver……meh

  19. saints4evah says: Jun 10, 2014 11:37 PM

    Sigh.
    Every freaking year…
    He’s a damned fine player, but he alligator arms after he got his bell rung a few times, and vanishes when covered by a truly good CB.
    He isn’t Megtron, and to want Megatron money is laughable.
    You’re a tight end Jimmy. Drafted as, used as…a tight end, and if you were a receiver you’d be a middle of the pack receiver.

  20. qdog112 says: Jun 11, 2014 12:02 AM

    Triplett must know where the bodies are buried, because he struggled during the lockout to make any sense. Why he even has a job, is a mystery.

    Both parties agreed to position designations, so the NFL has to eat this one.

  21. natitownhustler says: Jun 11, 2014 12:52 AM

    Do most of you dbags just post without knowing any of the details of this ongoing story? Graham isn’t the one challenging this franchise tag designation the NFLPA is. The union filed the grievance on his behalf…. Most of you sound like idiots.

    You probably are the same jerk offs that are quick to say that the union signed the CBA and have to live with it (goodell being judge jury and executioner is an example aka being the guy who hands out punishments and does appeals)

    Now that the situation is reversed, its too bad for the NFL. They signed the CBA. Deal with it! Graham should get every dollar he deserves! More power to him

  22. rayala3 says: Jun 11, 2014 12:58 AM

    If me or any of you are in Jimmy’s position you go for all you can get. Unless you’re a chump.

  23. jetnotjets says: Jun 11, 2014 1:17 AM

    “terrybradshawisdead says: Jun 10, 2014 10:46 PM

    Graham is a top 5 TIGHT END which is $7-12M range

    Graham is a top 40 Wide Receiver……meh”

    JIMMY GRAHAM 2013 STATS
    #15 in the NFL in Receiving Yards with 1,215.
    #13 in the NFL in Receptions with 86.
    #1 in the NFL in Receiving TD’s with 16.

    Led his team in each category while not starting in 4 games due to injuries.

    Still think he’s only a Top 40 WR? He is the #1 pass catcher on his team, and he wants to be paid like other #1 pass catchers on their teams. He deserves WR money.

  24. wyrdawg says: Jun 11, 2014 1:46 AM

    (ergo, “tight end”)

    That. Pretty much sums it up.

    Really, he’s WR. As saints4evah says:

    He’s a damned fine player, but he alligator arms after he got his bell rung a few times, and vanishes when covered by a truly good CB.

    Gigantic slot receiver. Case solved. Pay him #2/#3 WR wages and move on.

  25. shockhawk12 says: Jun 11, 2014 1:48 AM

    He was drafted as a tight end, his position is called tight end, no matter how many plays he is used, he is a damn tight end..End of story- If you had asked this creep when he came into the league if he would be happy in a couple years to earn 7 mil a year he would have been peeing down his leg like a puppy…But give him some playing time and when he does good he gets a fat head and wants to re-define the position system – Figures, Pure greed-
    ( I think I just threw up in my mouth a little)

  26. txnative65 says: Jun 11, 2014 2:17 AM

    Anybody that thinks the Saints didn’t tag him to take advantage of the bargain price for Tight Ends is delusional. He wants to be paid commensurate to his receptions, and the league and Saints want to make HIM be the one that’s greedy. He is a receiving tight end, and would never have been tagged if he was a blocker.

  27. Savage Lizard says: Jun 11, 2014 2:35 AM

    He’s cool with being a tight end for Pro Bowl selections, All-Pro, and NFL records, but when it’s cash grab time he’s not a tight end. Complete BS!

  28. kd75 says: Jun 11, 2014 3:35 AM

    I don’t remember Mark Bavaro ever lining up in the slot.

  29. harrisonhits2 says: Jun 11, 2014 5:03 AM

    There are few greedier people on the face of the planet than NFL owners. For them to cry foul at anyone making a “naked cash grab” when they have spent their whole lives doing just that is pathetic.

    Look at guys like the Cleveland owner that bilked millions and millions of dollars from his FlyingJ customers. I suppose that and many other examples related to NFL owners weren’t “naked cash grabs”.

    I suppose charging as much for 1 beer at the stadiums as you can buy a 6 pack for isn’t a naked cash grab. Or $40 for parking for a game isn’t a naked cash grab. The list could go on for days.

  30. campcouch says: Jun 11, 2014 5:26 AM

    Pay him and sink the Saints. The owners will guarantee that a TE stays a TE then.

  31. sarrail says: Jun 11, 2014 7:14 AM

    So I guess when a qb lines up in shotgun formation, he can be franchised as a running back or full back?

  32. jimmyt says: Jun 11, 2014 7:38 AM

    If I were that Saints, I would be so sick of this BS I would just cut him and move on. Guy is a tight end.

  33. fsstnotch says: Jun 11, 2014 7:44 AM

    You can’t fault a man for trying to secure his future. Frankly, I hate the franchise tag completely! I especially hate it when used on younger players who have played their tails off for you and you don’t reward them with a long term deal.

    My guess is that if most of us normal people went to work, busted our butts and outperformed 100% of our co-workers and then the boss called you in his office and said that raise you’ve earned isn’t going to happen this year, maybe next year… you’d be upset. Its especially upsetting for a guy in a violent position that could end his career anytime.

  34. flexx91 says: Jun 11, 2014 7:58 AM

    This guy has been underpaid his entire career. The Saints should be ashamed of themselves for not offering him a market value contract.
    ___________________________________

    Fool, he is coming off his rookie contract and was offered a contract at market value – one of the highest for a TE. The issue has nothing to do with him being underpaid but paid as a WR instead of a TE.

  35. shoeflypie says: Jun 11, 2014 9:02 AM

    He needs to rescind “All-Pro Tight End” designation if he wants middle-of-the-road WR pay. Shouldn’t be able to have it both ways.

  36. tinbender2000 says: Jun 11, 2014 9:06 AM

    Strange how the only way a tight end ever makes the Pro Bowl is when he spends the season lined up as a receiver.

  37. schmokes says: Jun 11, 2014 9:16 AM

    Since he decided to copy another prominent tight end with his td celebrations, its obvious that JimMe thinks of himself as a TE.

  38. joefelicelli says: Jun 11, 2014 9:27 AM

    I think history and any other comparisons are not relevant in this case. The bottom line is the tight end is an eligible receiver on every play, meaning he can go in motion and is not required to be in one place. Offensive lineman, the only non-eligible receivers on the play, cannot move once they have established their stance.

    So who cares where he lines up, or what player normally occupies that position. He is still a tight end, and should be treated that way. Offensive scheme is not the determining factor. It is position definition. Jimmy Graham is an eligible receiver on every play as a tight end. The rules state he can be lined up tight, wide, in the backfield, or any other spot except being covered up by another eligible receiver or inside of an OL. Why is this even a discussion?

  39. mnrunleft says: Jun 11, 2014 9:41 AM

    Given the line bluring between WR/TE the NFL may need to adjust their franchise tagging and simply lump them all into a receiver group similar to how the do with offensive linemen. C, G and T all have the same franchise number, the easy solution to the WR or TE issue to lump them in the same group.

  40. thefirstsmilergrogan says: Jun 11, 2014 9:42 AM

    seems to me the nfl has lost a few lately. their naked money grab with the refs was embarrassing to say the least. the smackdown by the judge of the saints penalties also comes to mind. and the failure of the league to persuade the judge in the concussion settlement to finalize their strategy of liability containment also falls in this category.

    i’m not sure how mike ditka or all-pro designation comes into play. all-pro is announced by associated press, not the league or player. mike ditka never played under the current contract.

    this sounds to me like when the league trotted out the former federal prosecutor to say their evidence in the bounty case was “an extremely strong record” in the weeks leading up to the judge’s decision. it turned out that the record was anything but extremely strong, and the players involved weren’t even correctly identified.

  41. keylimelight says: Jun 11, 2014 9:48 AM

    Well of course it’s a cash grab. In business, EVERY MOVE by every party is designed to be a cash grab.

    My issue with Jimmy is that he is asking to be paid as a WR when in actuality, his coach was forced to use him as such because JG is deficient in blocking ability. Payton was making lemonade with this lemon.

    Essentially, he’s looking to be (overly) rewarded for hobbling the offense at the TE position. How many times would Payton have lined him up wide if Graham could have been used as a competent blocker?

  42. 6thsense10 says: Jun 11, 2014 10:11 AM

    Joefelicelli

    This is a discussion because the CBA designates franchise tags base on where a player lines up the majority of the time regardless of what position the team says the player plays.

  43. rheffero says: Jun 11, 2014 10:56 AM

    This is really not a need for that much animosity. Graham wants to maximize his salary, and management wants to get a highly productive player for the lower cost.

    Once this goes through the process, we will see how everyone reacts.

    Where the NFL will lose eventually, is when this guy becomes a free agent, will some NFL GM give him WR money vs TE money. Let see how serious GM’s get when this guy hits the market.

    Then there is a precedent set, and hyprocrisy discussion can begin. Let the NFL owners hang themselves here and the NFLPA can use that in future cases

    I see nothing with both sides going down this path and for the NFLPA representing the players. The NFL has EVERY right to represent the owners interest.

    No Owners paying bilions for franchises, no players, no league..or did capitalism get wiped out with an Executive Order from the Commander in Chief.

  44. tv426 says: Jun 11, 2014 11:06 AM

    He is a TE – period.

    Just like a RB (Sproles, Bush, etc.) is still a RB even though they catch passes, line up as receivers, or block, etc.

    So is a FB really a lineman because he blocks? The arguments are absurd.

  45. theparadoxx82 says: Jun 11, 2014 12:13 PM

    The CBA clearly spells this out. They aren’t going to bat for a deal they JUST dealth with a holdout ot get to.

    It doesn’t matter who did what at where, the language in the actual CBA is cut and dry.

  46. Andee says: Jun 11, 2014 12:42 PM

    Bills should have totally traded for all this headache.

  47. noladat says: Jun 11, 2014 12:44 PM

    How many times does a top shelf wr line up next to the tackle?

    Oh that is right almost never!

    Te case closed!

  48. redrew says: Jun 11, 2014 1:04 PM

    Why should the league or teams care. Their is a fixed sum of money every year…..it all evens out. My personal belief is that a top TE is far more valuable than a top WR based on total # of plays that a TE has direct involvement. I’ll pay the beast that directly aids both the running and passing game any day. A top WR only touches the ball 6-7 per game. Talk about over paid

  49. harshedmellow says: Jun 11, 2014 2:01 PM

    Can’t blame the guy- $5M is a lot of coin, and he did just get franchised… meaning he has a ONE YEAR contract. He blows up a knee- which easily could happen- and suddenly he’s unemployed the next year and this might be his LAST contract.

    So if the CBA gives him leverage- even if it’s best described as a loophole- to try for more money, more power to him. I know the NFLPA signed off on the CBA with the franchise tag, but it has to be a bitter pill for guys coming off their rookie contract to get tagged. I’m not a fan of the franchise tag in general and I bet in the next CBA it gets a major rework. Perhaps change it such that it cannot be used on guys coming off their rookie contracts.

  50. keylimelight says: Jun 11, 2014 3:24 PM

    The real issue about the money is not how much the NFL has vs what a player gets. It’s about how much of the allotted cap space–for the length of the contract–is the player worth to the team.

    A team has to balance need vs afford not just for one season, and not just one player, but also looking ahead as players age.

    So the Saints have to ask themselves how much is it worth to retain a one-dimensional-ish, 29 year old player over the next 5 years or so.

    You can bet Jimmy will be amply rewarded with a fat signing bonus, I just don’t think he’s worth breaking the house though.

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