Jimmy Graham is causing a whole lot of offseason headaches for himself and his team with his current grievance with the New Orleans Saints to determine his salary. The issue of deciding whether or not he should be franchise tagged as a tight end or wide receiver has been hotly debated over the course of the past week. The franchise tag designation makes a large difference in both Graham’s paycheck and the Saints’ ability to stay under the salary cap. If Graham is indeed labeled as a wide receiver rather than a tight end it would equal a difference of $5 million dollars. Graham’s salary and his cap hit would increase to $12.3 million, putting the Saints over the cap, since they currently have only $1,718,621 in salary cap space.
Both sides to the argument of determining Graham’s true position have valid and convincing points. The truth is that Graham may not ultimately fall into either category. There’s no doubting Graham’s overall production in the past, or his ability to be an elite performer. He’s averaged 1,169 receiving yards and almost 9 touchdowns per season in his past 3 campaigns in New Orleans. However, even social media may come back to haunt Graham in his quest for more money, as he identifies himself as a tight end on his own personal twitter account. His own quarterback, Drew Brees, has even gone as far to say that he would label Graham as a wide receiver/tight end hybrid, further proving there may not even be a right or wrong answer.
The arbitrator’s decision in the case is expected to be revealed this week and the verdict could end up affecting the salaries of many others around the league. One prime example would be Vernon Davis in San Francisco. Also considered to be one of the most talented tight ends in the league, Davis is currently holding out. He chose not to attend San Francisco’s minicamp, in hopes to send the message that he believes he is underpaid as an important offensive contributor. Graham has done the same and it seems apparent that the offensive unit is missing him in the huddle, not having the opportunity to get important offseason reps with one of their offensive leaders.
No matter what the decision ends up being in this case there’s one solution that has appeared to be neglected throughout the whole process. The Saints’ management could have rather decided to lock Graham up by giving him a long-term contract. In doing so, the Saints would be able to get below the salary cap by spreading Graham’s salary cap hit over the course of several years in the new contract. This would lessen the hit each year and probably help both parties in getting what they want. It seems the Saints could even end up dealing Graham if they feel that dishing out the dough wouldn’t be worth it for them. It will be interesting to see how the Saints truly ending up valuing their star tight end, or wide receiver. Let’s just settle on pass catcher for now.