10 things to know about the Jimmy Graham franchise tag

Getty Images

Now that the Saints have applied the franchise tag to tight end Jimmy Graham, plenty of things can happen over the next four months or so.

Here are 10 things to know about the situation, which could get more and more interesting as time goes by.

1.  The Saints don’t designate the position.

Despite reports suggesting that the Saints would be tagging Graham as a tight end, the Saints simply apply the tag generically.  The NFL Management Council will determine whether to apply the $7.035 million tight end franchise tender or the far more lucrative $12.315 million receiver franchise tender.

The difference amounts to $5.28 million on a one-year deal.

2.  Graham believes he’s a receiver.

If the Management Council gives Graham the designation that meshes with the position he officially plays, Graham and the NFLPA will file an immediate grievance.  The dispute will be resolved by a System Arbitrator, subject to review by the three-member Appeals panel.

3.  The labor deal controls the decision.

Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement explains that the tender will be issued for “the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.”

A literal application of that language requires a simple counting of the plays in which Graham lined up as a tight end, and the plays during which he lined up as a receiver.  There’s no dispute that Graham lined up in the slot or split wide more times than he lined up next to a tackle.

4.  The Saints’ argument will be rooted in common sense.

The Saints will argue that tight ends routinely line up in various spots, and that since the tight end is the only player that ever lines up next to the tackle, the fact that Graham lined up at least one third of the time next to the tackle makes him a tight end.

The dispute will hinge on whether the System Arbitrator regards a tight end lining up in the slot or splitting wide as participating in the resulting play as a tight end or as a receiver.

5.  The dispute can be resolved at any time.

Even though the Saints have applied the franchise tag to Graham, the Saints and Graham can reach an agreement that resolves the looming dispute, either through a multi-year deal or a one-year agreement that, for example, splits the $5.28 million difference.

The next logical deadline for working out a deal comes before the ruling is issued by the System Arbitrator.  That’s what happened in 2008, when the Ravens designated Terrell Suggs as a linebacker and he argued that he’s actually a defensive end.

By not resolving the issue before applying the tag, the Saints risk Graham deciding to dig in his heels and not reach a compromise, forcing a decision that will result in a $5.28 million swing on a one-year deal.

6.  Graham could argue that the tag should be eliminated.

Even though the Saints didn’t designate a position when applying the franchise tag, Graham and the NFLPA can argue that the NFL’s Management Council gets only one opportunity to select the correct application of the tag — and that the failure to pick the right position invalidates the tag.

If successful, Graham could become a free agent.  While that outcome is highly unlikely, nothing stops Graham from making the argument.

7.  A precedent could be set for other tight ends.

If Graham’s situation results in a decision from the System Arbitrator, the outcome will provide guidance to all other teams and players facing a similar situation in the future.

If Graham and the Saints strike a deal that makes a ruling unnecessary, it would be prudent for the NFL and the NFLPA to clarify the tight end/receiver distinction in the Collective Bargaining Agreement moving forward.  Otherwise, this potential issue will continue to arise.

8.  Graham’s official position would not be changed.

If Graham prevails on his argument that he’s a receiver for franchise tag purposes, his official position wouldn’t change.  He’d continue to be listed as a tight end, he’d continue to attend tight end meetings, and (perhaps most importantly) he’d still be a tight end for fantasy football purposes.

9.  July 15 remains an important date.

Regardless of how the franchise-tag categorization is resolved, the Saints and Graham would have until July 15 to strike a long-term deal.  After July 15, only a one-year deal can be signed.  Which would put Graham on track for becoming a free agent again in 2015.

If Graham wins the grievance and secures designation as a receiver, it won’t matter where he lines up in 2014.  If tagged in 2015, he’d be entitled to a 20-percent raise over the receiver franchise tender.

10.  Graham could choose to go year to year.

Whether Graham wins or loses the looming grievance, he could elect to not do a long-term deal, opting instead to retain the injury risk and play one year at a time.  He’d receive a 20-percent raise in 2015 if tagged again, and then a 44-percent raise in 2016 or the quarterback franchise tender, whichever is greater.

If Graham is deemed to be a receiver for franchise-tag purposes, Graham would be entitled to $14.77 million in 2015 and $21.275 million in 2016.

That’s a three-year haul of $48.357 million.

So, yes, that $5.28 million question can result in all sorts of outcomes, including Graham making more than $45 million more over the next three NFL seasons than the $3.3 million he received in his first four years in the league.

49 responses to “10 things to know about the Jimmy Graham franchise tag

  1. Ten things to know about packer fans. 1.they are Fat.2.they are idiots.3.they are slow readers.4.they wish they were good looking like Viking fans.5.they wish their team was better than the vikings.6.they wish they were as smart as us.7.the average packer fan orders twice from either mcdonalds or Burger King everyday.8.they like Clown music.9.if you see a packer fan,odds are he’s fat.10……They are packer fans so they are FAT.SKOL

  2. In one season I’ve went from being the biggest Jimmy Graham out there to loathing his very existence on the Saints’ roster. Send his @ss to the Raides or the Jaguars. Let’s see him play with Terrelle Pryor or Blaine Gabbert.
    Brees is a sure-fire first ballot hall of Famer. He is the reason you look as good as you do Jimmy.
    Then again, Brees can’t force you to block when he needs you.
    He can’t force you to not to alligator passes over the middle.
    He can’t force to not talk crap to the best secondary out there, and show up weak.
    He can’t force you to show up in the most important games of the season, Jimmy.
    The Black & Gold door is on your left, don’t let it hit you home slice!

  3. 9 mil if he loses? 5.5 after taxes and deductions?

    That’s a civil service slash union wage for the next 50 years which is about what America all about.

    He can’t lose if he is smart enough to know what I just said…

  4. In regards to part 10 of the article I’d like to know in what hypothetical universe an NFL team would pay $20+ million for a tight end? Or $14+ million for that matter.

    Some good points brought up in the article but a 3 year haul of $48 million dollars for Graham take the award for “Most Ridiculous Contract Scenario.”

  5. A few years ago Logan Mankins signed his RFA Tender on Nov 2. What Is the last date Jimmy can sign his franchise tender and get credited for the 2014 season?

  6. If he spent 50% of his snaps at the $7.035 million tight end franchise tender and 50% of his plays at the $12.315 million receiver franchise tender, couldn’t the arbiter just split just call him an “H-Back” and split the difference at $9.675 million?

  7. Mike, any way to find out if this is the exclusive or non-exclusive tag? That would show how flexible the Saints will be going forward.

    I’m betting it is the non-exclusive tag to invite other teams to pursue Jimmy Graham and the Saints to possibly acquire some draft picks or to set the market value for him.

  8. If he believes he’s a wide receiver then I’m sure Jimmy will also be happy to return his Pro Bowl money(or even better donate the entire amount to charity) that he earned for being selected as one of the leagues best tight ends.

  9. What about for times he lined up in the backfield? a few times a game, he lines up in the backfield in order to try and get a match up with a LB. Should those 5% be factored in as RB money? What about safeties who line up in the box in dime package? Should they get LB pay?

  10. He’s a tight end. It isn’t that hard. The game has changed and tight ends catch a lot more passes than they used to but he IS a tight end.

  11. “…Graham making more than $45 million more over the next three NFL seasons than the $3.3 million he received in his first four years in the league…”

    …IF the Saints don’t cut him, trade him, or let him walk after this coming season.

  12. Point #8 is rather silly. If you want WR money, play that position. But Graham is nowhere near the top 10 wide outs in the league. I don’t see why the Saints don’t just make him the highest paid TE in the league and squash the beef. They better make sure this season he gets his keester next to a tackle more than the slot.

  13. if grahm loses and is ruled a tight end then he should only line up on the inside no matter what route is called . if you are no getting paid what a receiver is then why do his his job? that is like working on the floor and being expected to do the foreman’s job, does not matter if I can do it I am not about to if I don’t get the same pay as him.

  14. Jimmy Graham is a tight end. He started many games as the #1 tight end. Heck, he’s a great tight end. It’s stupid to think he’s a receiver just because it’s payday.

  15. Right because the saints would totally drop a 21 million dollar franchise tag on a player for the third year in a row. Of course all players hate being tagged compared to getting long term contracts. That would insure graham would walk the following year in free agency.

  16. Just group the tight end and receiver position together, the same as all offensive linemen are grouped together. No team will use the franchise tag on a purely blocking tight end anyway. They simply aren’t worth that amount of money. So pay them for what they are paid to do – catch the ball.

  17. I believe he is a TE. The duties of a TE include being an eligible receiver.
    I would argue that the statement in the CBA doesn’t really apply in this kind of case. I think it was meant for instances where a player plays in a completely different position with different responsibilities (say a backup guard is converted to a TE or a WR plays CB like the Pats did a couple years ago)

  18. Say Jimmy gets a deal that is $10 million a year on average, going into 2014 the Saints will have Brees & Graham absorbing 23% of the 133 million dollar salary cap. Not a lot of room for Mickey Loomis to build a quality roster with depth.

  19. Go Jimmy Graham! Redefining the position. If I’m an owner I’ve got my GM & Pro Player personnel guy in front of me now explaining why locking him down for 7 years isn’t worth 2 first-rounders.

  20. Calling this man selfish is not fair! He made like $700,000 last year. He never complained or threatened to hold out. He played the game by the NFL rules and now it is time to pay the man his money!

  21. “the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.”

    Let me break the news, the Saints have no argument. The argument to that language should have been discussed BEFORE the new CBA contract was signed.

  22. It’s really quite simple: Jimmy is awesome, because he’s a matchup nightmare- AS A TIGHT END! As a tight end, he is covered by linebackers or free safeties, and he’s too fast for them. When he splits out wide, it weakens the run d by taking a linebacker/strong safety out there with him, PLUS exposes them by making them cover him in space…….
    If he lined up at wide receiver every play, he would be covered by faster, more agile cornerbacks. He dosen’t have the speed to beat them deep, nor the agility to run crisp routes.
    His only advantage would be his size, which he would take advantage of by running a lot of underneath routs over the middle.
    You know, kinda like a tight end does……….
    So, I guess the real question is, if he becomes a beast at wr by running tight end routes, and gets tagged again, will he demand tight end pay?
    Just askin……..

  23. Split the difference and continue working on the long term deal.

    If the Saints want to establish themselves as a class organization like the Ravens, this is what they’d do.

  24. I think what makes Graham so good is the fact that he IS a tight end. Meaning he gets covered more often by guys that aren’t so good at covering ( I don’t know the actual stats on this, I’m just going by how teams USUALLY deal with TEs). I think if he wants to be a wide receiver then let him only line up out wide and have actual corners cover him. I have the feeling that if guys that normally cover top receivers start covering him he will only be good, but not great…

  25. Fans are funny. The notion that these players are suppose to make financial decisions based on emotion and attachments is unrealistic and naive. Get a clue: Emotions are for game time. It has no place in business negotiations.

  26. 11. this will be his worst season ever.

    Whenever there’s a contract dispute or a bunch of money thrown a players way he either gets hurt of has a crappy season. It’s a scientific fact!

  27. I bet in the record books when Jimmy reaches a certain point that breaks records held by TE’s rather than WR’s in football history he’ll consider himself a TE.

  28. As a saints fan I know jimmy graham is the best tight end out there but we would make a huge mistake to give him 12 mil or over we don’t have the cap space may I remind saints fans sproles Jordan and Ingram are up for new contracts next year and let’s not forget all the needs for this season . Either sign a reasonable LONG term contract or get 2 first rounders and build are team not just jg wallet

  29. Forgive me but this is all non-sense. The franchise tag is awful, degrading thing for football players. I’m labeling it a slimy out for not committing financially to your best players. Because of their shelf life, in their primes of their lives, they get shafted by the league system here. Like a purgatory for getting all money you probably deserve at that point. Only dumb NFLPA people would have that get over on them by the rich white guys during CBA structuring.

  30. Lol wow.

    He’s a TE because S/LB cover him? That’s great reasoning
    He’s a TE because it says so on the roster? Even better
    He’s a TE because he’s a TE! The best

    Love the tough guy fan routine who wants to run him out of town after paying him <800k the last three years. Yet fans still love Drew Bree's and his 27m cap hit.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!