He might be a hybrid on the field, but Jimmy Graham is a tight end in the eyes of the New Orleans Saints.
And that will cost him millions.
In a pivotal decision Wednesday, arbitrator Stephen Burbank sided with the Saints and denied Graham’s request to be categorized as a wide receiver for franchise-tag purposes.
Were Graham to be regarded as a receiver he would have qualified for a contract tender of $12.132 million. Instead, as a tight end, his one-year tender is $7.053 million.
He didn’t pluck the receiver argument out of thin air, either. He lined up wide or in the slot on 67% of his snaps last season. The rules for a franchise tag stipulate that a player’s designation is based on the position at which he lines up most frequently.
“We will advise Graham of his options and carefully determine next steps in this matter,” the NFL Players Assn. said in a statement. “We will also continue to assist Graham and his representation as necessary to help the player reach a fair long-term deal with the New Orleans Saints.”
Teams have until July 15 to sign franchised players to longer-term deals. Graham is expected to become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history.