Remember the rumor that the Rams were thinking about applying the tight end transition tag to receiver Danny Amendola? Jeff Fisher, Les Snead, and company may have been on to something.
Wednesday’s results-driven ruling from arbitrator Stephen Burbank, which dubbed Jimmy Graham a tight end for franchise-tag purposes, could change the way teams handle their slot receivers. If, based on Burbank’s reasoning, a player lines up within four yards of a tackle, he can be regarded as a tight end, not a receiver.
While it would be a little obvious for teams to suddenly change the position of a player approaching free agency from receiver to tight end, smart teams will start calling slot receivers “tight ends” from the get-go. If those players are consistently described and treated as tight ends — and if they line up more times within four yards of the tackle than anywhere else — a slot receiver who plays really well and becomes a free agent could be retained via the far cheaper tight end franchise tender.
The possibility of shenanigans makes the creation of a new category under the franchise and transition tag even more important. While still generically a tight end or a receiver, a player who consistently lines up neither wide to the sideline nor tight to the tackle plays a position that has a value falling between tight end and wide receiver. So whether it’s Graham or Amendola or Anquan Boldin or anyone else, a franchise tag that reflects the actual value of the hybrid role is needed.