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.