Burbank’s decision could make slot receivers into tight ends


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.

23 responses to “Burbank’s decision could make slot receivers into tight ends

  1. The terrible decision by the arbitrator has consequences. 67% of Jimmy Graham’s snaps were effectively as a receiver, but that was conveniently ignored. The consequence of the franchise tag designation is that it significantly deprives Jimmy’s income by an estimated $5M+ per season when at the peak of his skills means that it opens the door to all sorts of interpretations for teams to exploit and they will.
    Commissioner Goodell preserved the status quo but what ye sows, so shall ye reap.

  2. Don’t know exactly how ‘smart’ a team that would be, since any team that does that will move to the bottom of the list FA’s want to play for.

  3. Difference is, Graham was ALWAYS a TE and called HIMSELF a TE until it came time to fight for WR money.

    You think WR’s are going to just go along with the team and say “Yeah, I’m a TE” regardless of their position?

  4. This folks is why this bonehead arbiters ruling screws not only TE but could also screw slot WRs. If im the NFLPA, i appeal this boneheads decision and explanation of a TE.

  5. Then they should force those players to go to TE meetings. Should be interesting.

  6. This arbitrator is a moron. In trying to please the his high ranking nfl buddies he made it even more confusing. The CBA spelled this out for him & he still couldn’t figure it out. Yes, JG is a TE. But he’s a TE who plays WR a whole hell of a lot. He should be paid accordingly.

  7. Doubtful that slot WRs willl be labeled TEs, simply because they’re NEVER in a 3-point stance.

  8. Slot receivers would not usually be franchised at the wide receiver price.

  9. Part of the ruling also included the fact that Jimmy Graham attended TE meetings. Teams would have to go through changes to how they coach to separate slot receivers from the other wide receivers. Slot receivers could also add an argument based on their physical size and counter Sean Payton’s argument related to who covers the tight ends (slot receivers are covered by cornerbacks).

  10. He’d still have to line up there most of the time. Pretty much every team has plays where any wide out is stacked close in to the line.

  11. The more teams that tag, the faster it becomes moot. As in the tag $ amount goes up as the talent goes up.

    Why is the receiver tag so high? Give this a few years and TE will catch up too.

  12. “a slot receiver who plays really well and becomes a free agent could be retained via the far cheaper tight end franchise tender.”
    It will only take a couple of seasons for this to self correct. Slot receivers are valuable players, so if they re-label them as tight ends, there will soon be enough with big contracts that the franchise and transition tags will inflate accordingly. It will just push good blocking tight ends out of the tag market.

  13. I was wrong about the arbitrator ruling, but I be damned if I’m wrong about the idiot arbitrator using a measuring tape to base his decision, as being preposterous.

    Why 4 feet? Where did he get that from? The basis for his ruling (not necessarily his ruling) will get lambasted. It’s not grounded in any established NFL rule.

    In short, he made it up and soon he will have to explain his reasoning.

  14. The arbitrator is an idiot. Traditionally the tight end lines up right next to either offensive tackle. Not one, two, three or four yards away. When the so called tight end is put any where else he is a wide receiver ala Gronkowski and Hernadez. Simple. So if you use percentages it comes down to how many plays was the tight end right next to a tackle and how many times was he not. The higher percentage defines his position.

  15. On the bright side if this is true slot receivers salaries should be figured into the top 5 salaries to determine the franchise tag.

    Percy Harvin $11 million

  16. If I’m Graham’s legal team I would simply find every single slot receiver who lined up a majority of their snaps within 4 yards of the tackle. I would then ask if they were considered TE’s. Should be pretty simple.

    All of this other crap doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what Graham calls himself, it doesn’t matter who covers him. The only thing that matters is written in the CBA, where did he line up the most? According to the CBA he lined up about 67% of his snaps in a WR position.

    What’s alarming to me is that a judge could actually rule against the facts. Seems to me there should be an investigation into how he came to that decision ($ under the table?).

  17. Wonder how pissed Jimmy really is? Sure would be a shame if he dropped that touch down pass that would have taken them into the playoffs or beyond. There’s a bad moon on the raise.

  18. Primary responsibility of a slot receiver is to catch passes, not block or ever line up in a three point stance. Sorry, not buying the TE tag on this one regardless if he’s within 4 yards of the tackle.

  19. very true calmincali

    Now if i was the GM of a team I’d tell a TE if you want to play WR FINE we’ll line you up at TE & let #1 CB line up against you

  20. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Jimmy Graham was a TE because he lined up on the LOS as a TE 33% of the time. Show me one Receiver that lines up on the LOS like a TE at all.. You can’t. Graham is a TE.

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