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Sean Payton testified at Jimmy Graham hearing

Graham Getty Images

Things got a little awkward, to say the least, when Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently suggested that the team’s offense will be fine with or without tight end* Jimmy Graham.  Things got a little more awkward at Graham’s grievance hearing.

Per multiple sources, the case against Graham’s position that he should be treated as a receiver for franchise tag purposes included testimony from coach Sean Payton.

The specifics aren’t known, but the gist of the testimony was that Graham is a tight end, not a receiver.  The consequence, if Payton’s testimony is accepted, will be $5.3 million less in 2014 earnings for Graham.

The league and the team believe that snaps taken by a tight end in the slot don’t alter his role as a tight end.  As one source pointed out to PFT on Friday, this position would allow a team to call a player a tight end, line him up 100 percent of the time in the slot, and avoid ever paying him as a receiver for franchise tag purposes.

Graham lined up only 33 percent of the time in 2013 as a traditional tight end.  The labor deal requires franchise-tagged players to be paid according to the tender for the position at which they participated in the most plays during the prior league year.

A ruling from the arbitrator is expected next week.  The appeal process may not be finished before the July 15 deadline for signing Graham to a long-term deal.  Regardless of when he shows up, Graham and Payton will need to find a way to put this chapter in their relationship behind them.

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50 Responses to “Sean Payton testified at Jimmy Graham hearing”
  1. scrp2 says: Jun 27, 2014 3:22 PM

    Coach Payton testified that Graham is not a WR because he doesn’t drop TD passes like the other receivers.

  2. schmitty2 says: Jun 27, 2014 3:23 PM

    IMO Graham is as good as gone after this season. No matter which side wins the team won’t put him in the slot anymore. Graham will be ticked off and bolt.

  3. thestrategyexpert says: Jun 27, 2014 3:24 PM

    Bruce Willis should be cast for a role in Loopholer. I’m quite certain it’s possible to make this project work. Throw in The Rock as Jimmy Graham and it could break records.

  4. shecklesmckenzie says: Jun 27, 2014 3:24 PM

    How many times does a WR line up with his hand in the dirt?

    This is what a TE does. They line up all over the field, including next to the tackles. A WR does not do this.

  5. demskinsbaby says: Jun 27, 2014 3:26 PM

    “If he walks like a WR and talks like a WR… I believe you call him a WR.”

  6. aceakking says: Jun 27, 2014 3:26 PM

    This is as bad a circus as the Bountygate.

  7. coachglove says: Jun 27, 2014 3:29 PM

    It would also allow the team to tag ALL slot receivers at TEs, not just guys like Graham, but guys like Welker.

  8. weepingjebus says: Jun 27, 2014 3:34 PM

    “He often ran routes like a WR, but his pay scale for crippling opposing players was TE.”

  9. gadgetdawg says: Jun 27, 2014 3:35 PM

    @Coachglove Except that someone like Wes Welker would probably not agree to play for a team that called him a TE. He would also likely call himself a WR long before a tag hearing came up.

  10. seahawksteven777 says: Jun 27, 2014 3:37 PM

    I can see why he wants to be considered a WR. He sure is a diva like most of them.

    This is a poor example to set for the rest of the TE’s in the league. They’re all going to see this and try to force their teams to pay them more.

    Oh and P.S. Jimmy Graham, you’re not worth the money you might get as a WR. You didn’t show up when your team needed you in the playoffs.

  11. trollhammer20 says: Jun 27, 2014 3:37 PM

    Second post nailed it. And it makes one wonder, what kind of attitude will Jimmy cop, and how will that translate to the locker room?

  12. sdisme says: Jun 27, 2014 3:42 PM

    Pretty sure a ruling that Graham is a TE would not allow a team to call a player a tight end, line him up 100 percent of the time in the slot, and avoid ever paying him as a receiver for franchise tag purposes.

    I would think you could easily define the position of Wes Welker, as you could Jimmy Graham.

  13. chawkup says: Jun 27, 2014 3:42 PM

    For purposes of the franchise tag, based upon the very clear language of the CBA, the guy is a wide receiver. The Saints were dumb to challenge this and even dumber for having their head coach testify against their second best offensive player. For a team that has a real shot to get to a Super Bowl this year, they sure are doing a good job of creating some serious locker room friction.

  14. chargers308 says: Jun 27, 2014 3:47 PM

    If it looks like a duck and QUACKS like a duck it is a DUCK!

  15. whodathoss1 says: Jun 27, 2014 3:52 PM

    Shannon Sharpe, TE. Jason Witten, TE. And the best TE of all time Tony Gonzalez is in fact a TE. None of these guys were considered WR and they more or less helped perfect the TE role. Point is, these guys aren’t WRs neither is Graham.

  16. therealtrenches says: Jun 27, 2014 3:53 PM

    Coach Payton is a self-serving tool.

  17. hsteacher says: Jun 27, 2014 3:54 PM

    This has huge consequences for the union moving forward. The union might have to have TE’s only were certain numbers and WR’s were other numbers like most other positions.

  18. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 27, 2014 3:58 PM

    Just call them all receivers. If they don’t think the guy playing tight end is worth that franchise tag, DON’T PUT IT ON HIM.

  19. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 27, 2014 4:00 PM

    The other alternative is to pay Graham 2/3 of the tag based on WR rate, and 1/3 on TE rate, if that was the proportion of his position snaps.

  20. footstepsfalco says: Jun 27, 2014 4:01 PM

    If his tag becomes WR, it’s only fair to then erase all of his tight end records… correct?

  21. ericbroe says: Jun 27, 2014 4:08 PM

    For the last time, this is Jimmy Graham vs. the NFL!! The saints tagged him and then the NFL made it a TE tag. The Saints have nothing to do with it. Get your facts straight before you bad mouth my team.

  22. tangysizzl says: Jun 27, 2014 4:09 PM

    Its pretty simple really.

    A Tight End is a player who lines up “tight” to the “end” of the offensive line, hence that’s why they call the position tight end. A Wide Receiver is a receiver who lines up wide of the offensive line hence why they call the position wide receiver.

    Do the math, if a guy lines up wide of the line 67% of the time and is a receiver and lonly lines up tight to the line 33% than he is technically and literally a WR.

    Its pretty cut and dry, unless your a Saints fan.

  23. giantsninerswarriors says: Jun 27, 2014 4:11 PM

    This is one reason why the franchise tag is a joke. When a players contract expires, then let the open market dictate the amount of salary a player is worth. If Graham was a free agent right now, it’s highly likely that New Orleans would be offering a contract at a WR wage in order to keep him in New Orleans.

    The amount of leverage that a team has over a player because of the franchise tag just isn’t right. An average Joe would be a bit pissed if we were forced to work for an employer beyond the terms of our signed contracts.

  24. soleman50 says: Jun 27, 2014 4:13 PM

    Brees stated that they would be fine with or without him!! Really Drew you lost Sproles, your other wide receivers are suspect,if Graham isn’t around to get help them get open. Sure you be fine, your paid well but the team will suck!! Now the Coach bucks him, how good is attitude going to be!!

  25. mburkett1980 says: Jun 27, 2014 4:16 PM

    tangysizzl says:
    Jun 27, 2014 4:09 PM

    Its pretty simple really.

    A Tight End is a player who lines up “tight” to the “end” of the offensive line, hence that’s why they call the position tight end. A Wide Receiver is a receiver who lines up wide of the offensive line hence why they call the position wide receiver.

    Do the math, if a guy lines up wide of the line 67% of the time and is a receiver and lonly lines up tight to the line 33% than he is technically and literally a WR.

    Its pretty cut and dry, unless your a Saints fan.
    —————–

    True “wide receivers,” especially the ones worth top WR money, play the X and Z position (the Calvin Johnson-types), not Y (the Victor Cruz types).

    Playing in the slot does not = playing WR. A tight end playing in the slot is a TE playing in the slot and is treated by the defense the exact same way if he was 3 yards over with his hand in the dirt.

    This is silliness.

  26. rybosjoint says: Jun 27, 2014 4:23 PM

    He is a tight end, but that is not the point. According to the CBA a player is to compensated at the average salary of the position he lines up in the majority of the snaps he takes. They can call him whatever they want to, but he lines up in the slot 67%, which is a wide out position then he must be paid like a wide receiver.
    If the owners were not so greedy and had not killed the last CBA, they would not be in this position now.

  27. mburkett1980 says: Jun 27, 2014 4:27 PM

    He is a tight end, but that is not the point. According to the CBA a player is to compensated at the average salary of the position he lines up in the majority of the snaps he takes. They can call him whatever they want to, but he lines up in the slot 67%, which is a wide out position then he must be paid like a wide receiver.
    If the owners were not so greedy and had not killed the last CBA, they would not be in this position now.

    ————–

    No the CBA says “position in which the player participated the most snaps at.” The CBA says nothing about where you line up, another media lie.

    Nor does the CBA specify where each position specifically lines up.

  28. flannlv says: Jun 27, 2014 4:28 PM

    I enjoy how people down vote statements of fact. There isn’t any dispute the league designates a player’s position. It has nothing to do with the team. Also, why no mention of Payton previously saying there needs to be an adjustment to the designation rules to cover players like Graham?

  29. qdog112 says: Jun 27, 2014 4:30 PM

    “…the gist of the testimony was that Graham is a tight end, not a receiver. The consequence, if Payton’s testimony is accepted, will be $5.3 million less in 2014 earnings for Graham.”
    ******
    Payton’s testimony was anticipated and was only to get the Saints on record. Noway the arbitrator expected a Perry Mason moment, where Peyton confessed that they used him and called him a WR.

    In short, that means nothing. If Payton’s word meant anything, they could have faxed that in last month. The case hangs in the balance and it hinges on the CBA language.

  30. FinFan68 says: Jun 27, 2014 4:31 PM

    He is a TE. TEs are allowed to line up in the slot and even out towards the sideline. When JG did this he was still a TE. He didn’t change position on those plays. It’s not like a regular lineman checked in at fullback.

    Pretend for a moment that RG3 runs the ball 1 more time than he throws it. The union’s position would mean that he could be tendered at the RB price rather than QB. We all know they would never make that argument. The union’s position will always be for the most money.

  31. clssylssy says: Jun 27, 2014 4:37 PM

    WOW! When the chips are down it’s amazing how the “fans” desert their heroes and join the side of management. Graham should be paid according to merit and performance not according to some outdated franchise tag that Sean Payton himself called antiquated and unbefitting these hybrid players. The CBA needs to be torn up and reworked to benefit the players as it should have been in the first place rather than used as another tool by the trust fund babies who are using the loopholes to further line their pockets. However this turns out, I don’t see Graham in a Saints uniform next season.

  32. mburkett1980 says: Jun 27, 2014 4:37 PM

    The “tight end,” as the average football fan calls it, plays the Y position. What is the Y position you ask?

    NFL Definition:

    What does Slot Y Receiver Mean?

    A type of receiver in football who lines up between the split end (“X receiver”) and flanker (“Z receiver”) and the center and is eligible to receive the ball. This type of receiver is also known as a “slot receiver” or “tight end”.

  33. trollhammer20 says: Jun 27, 2014 4:41 PM

    flannlv says:
    Jun 27, 2014 4:28 PM

    I enjoy how people down vote statements of fact.
    ____________________

    This is the age of the internet and media outlets aimed at particular political groups. Many people now feel entitled to their own facts.

  34. rukkus1 says: Jun 27, 2014 4:49 PM

    When was the last time you saw Graham with his hand on the ground? When was the last time you saw him primarily as a blocker on a play?

    You don’t see it. He is running a route almost all the time. There’s been a lot of great receiving tight ends, but they all blocked as well. Jimmy doesnt. This is why he fought it. He had a decent reason to fight it. Even if it is a muddy case.

  35. sfsaintsfan says: Jun 27, 2014 5:00 PM

    This is the language exactly as it appears in the CBA:

    “…the average of the five largest Prior Year
    Salaries for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below)
    at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League
    Year,…”

    _________________

    It CLEARLY states “participated in” not lined up at. For all of you geniuses out there, Jimmy Graham “participated” in the Saints Offense as a TE, not as a WR. He went to TE player meetings, he ran the plays in the playbook assigned to TE’s, he was defended by opposing defenses as a TE would be defended, he is designated as a TE on plays in which he participates and he even dunks the ball like a TE… :)

    If the arbitrator rules that Jimmy Graham is a WR, lets see if any teams are stupid enough to pay him WR money at the level a true top five WR would get. I think the answer would be no. He is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but he is no way, not even close, to a top five WR, a true game changing WR. That is a different position. He is one of the top, if not the top TE’s in the game today and should take top TE money and run….like a TE.

  36. orndorf2 says: Jun 27, 2014 5:26 PM

    No matter the ruling he will play for the Saints…around 10 mil a yr. that will mend all the so-called hurt feelings.

    The way Payton & Brees used him in the offense paved the way for him to be the highest paid TE. However they won a Super Bowl and have had a top offense with a lot of different contributors…since 2006..so I agree with Drew that the offense will be fine. Remember, they tagged him with a non-exclusive franchise tag….allowing other teams to make an offer & the Saints could then match or allow him to go and get a couple picks for him. No team valued the best TE or pretty good WR enough to offer anything. ….He will be happy as the top-paid TE in a Saint uniform.

  37. qdog112 says: Jun 27, 2014 5:26 PM

    Apples and oranges. This is about POSITION, not franchise player PRICE.

  38. thehawg says: Jun 27, 2014 6:26 PM

    Let him become a free agent & let the market determine his worth with the Saints right to match.

  39. lawvaughn says: Jun 27, 2014 7:12 PM

    This is a waste of time, coaches line players up in the position that gives them the advantage. Whether he was in the slot or in the tight end position he is what they label him period. Now an interesting fact is what percentage was he covered in his tight end position, and could not run a route. Would this make him a lineman??

  40. hard2babuffalofan says: Jun 27, 2014 7:20 PM

    Like all the ” great ” ones — doesn’t get his way , and the dreaded ” turf toe ” or ” chronic hamstring ” will play out , sit for a majority of the season and he’ll be gone next year anyways ..

  41. hard2babuffalofan says: Jun 27, 2014 7:28 PM

    Be just like all the ” great ” ones … Doesn’t get his way and the dreaded ” turf toe ” or ” chronic hamstring ” will have him sit the majority of the season on his measly TE salary . Then he’ll be gone next year for mega-bucks and fizzle out

  42. creeldawgster says: Jun 27, 2014 7:28 PM

    C’mon people! All this talk bout te vs wr is crazy! The saints offered him $10mil/yr. Thats the most ever for a te and only $2.3mil from what a franchised wr would make. So all this talk about a $5.3mil diff in salary if they decide he is a te or wr is really not true. It just gives the media something to write about. The only reason he didnt take the $10mil is because of his agent. That scumbag told him not to sign because he could get him even more than that. Which means the agent makes more and thats the bottom line!! It really all comes down to the greedy f’ing agent!!!

  43. osiris33 says: Jun 28, 2014 1:49 AM

    The Seattle Seahawks were not called to testify because neither side could find any evidence he was even on the field against them.

  44. silentcount says: Jun 28, 2014 2:46 AM

    How many times does a wide receiver line up as a tight end? Zero? Cased closed.

  45. smackingfools says: Jun 28, 2014 10:06 AM

    Hearing? Testifying? We talking about Graham or Hernandez?

  46. The Angry American says: Jun 28, 2014 11:03 AM

    What most of you fail to realize is the majority of Jimmy’s success, completions, passes, looks, TD’s came when he was lined up as a TE. Most of the time when he lined up as a WR or in the slot was as a decoy and he rarely even got looks. I’d have to blame his agent for convincing him of this silliness over where he lined up most. They aren’t going to rule in his favor simply for that reason alone. The stats just aren’t in his favor.

  47. Savage Lizard says: Jun 28, 2014 11:29 AM

    Haven’t I heard stuff like Graham and others “redefining the tight end position.” We’ll he’s a tight end and the positions is played differently these days. The end.

  48. vikingspride says: Jun 28, 2014 12:01 PM

    Grahams position has always been listed as TE and before this year he never said he was a WR. When various nfl shows have debated who the best TE currently playing the game is, Graham or “player x” he never responded. Face it Jimmy your a tight end! A very very good tight end. That’s it!

  49. texcajun says: Jun 28, 2014 3:10 PM

    If a running back catches a lot of passes, does that make him a receiver ? If you’re a TE that catches passes you’re still a TE just like a running back that catches passes is still a running back. When a team signs you to a contract to play a position, that’s what you are.

  50. luciadreams says: Jun 29, 2014 12:41 PM

    If Kaepernick runs all game long should he really be labeled quarterback? He gets quarterback pay right? Give Graham his money, he obvi deserves it.

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