Jimmy Graham Ruled Tight End, Saints Gain Upper Hand In Negotiations
The NFL has confirmed that Saints All-Pro Jimmy Graham has officially been ruled a tight end by a third-party arbitrator.
Graham's camp argued that since he lined up in the slot or out wide on 67 percent of his snaps in 2013, he should be declared a wide receiver under the NFL's franchise tag rules.
If Graham and the Saints cannot agree on a contract by July 15th, Graham would only be allowed to play in 2014 under the franchise tag designation, or would have to sit out the season. As a tagged wide receiver, Graham would make $12.132 million on a one-year deal. However, as a franchise tagged tight end, Graham is set to earn $7.053 million...unless he works out a long-term deal with the Saints.
The ruling gives New Orleans leverage in the negotiations. The reason Graham's camp filed a grievance to force an arbitration hearing is because each side (Saints, Graham's agent) was far apart in contract negotiations. Now that Graham's party knows he can only earn $7.053 million on a one year deal, the pressure heats up for Graham's side to lower their demands. If a deal isn't worked out, New Orleans would also hold leverage next year, having the right to franchise tag Graham again.
Ultimately, I believe a contract will be agreed upon before the July 15th deadline that will make Graham the highest paid tight end in NFL history. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski currently holds that distinction, earning about $9 million per year.