NFL arbitrator rules in favor of the Saints, Jimmy Graham will be paid like a tight end

Jimmy Graham will be paid like a tight end, after an arbitrator rules in favor of the Saints

7/3/14 in NFL   |   Pat   |   5235 respect

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) runs with the ball during warm ups prior to the Saints' game against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsJimmy Graham and the Saints have been in a fierce battle over how much money he should be paid under the franchise tag. The Saints tagged him as a tight end, meaning he'll be paid $7.053 million this year unless they reach a multi-year deal. Graham was trying to be categorized as a wide receiver, which would give him a salary of $12.132 million instead.

Graham and his agent were arguing that he lines up as a wide receiver so often that he should be classified as one. The Saints offense uses Graham in a way that is unique compared to most other tight ends, and his numbers are far more comparable to that of a WR than an average TE, or even compared to most other elite tight ends.

The NFL arbitrator eventually came to the decision that Graham is indeed a tight end, meaning he'll get the lower tag number and any contract extension negotiations after that will start with the Saints having a clear advantage.

This is a huge ruling for the league, and could have a big impact on how players are willing to negotiate in the future. Graham knows that his value isn't even remotely comparable to other tight ends in the league, and he could hold out for more money knowing that the Saints will eventually have no choice but to give him his money.

One of the main factors appeared to be the way defenses played against Graham. Since he was often defended by linebackers and strong safeties, that categorizes him as more of a tight end than wide receiver.

According to the arbitrator Stephen Burbank:
 
"The evidence also supports findings that, like tight ends, wide receivers and running backs often line up in the slot ... and that the defense employed against any player so aligned turns on the player's position, not his alignment, because of the physical attributes and skill sets of the players in those positions."

Burbank obviously didn't note that when Graham was covered by a player who typically covered other tight ends, he dominated them. He didn't note that the only time Graham was truly shut down was when he was treated like a wide receiver, when teams like the New England Patriots put elite cornerbacks on him, like Aqib Talib.

Realistically, Graham's skill set and performance dictates that he deserves to be paid like a wide receiver. Not just any wide receiver, one of the better WRs in the league.

He's not a typical tight end, and he's better than 'just' an elite tight end. And he deserves to be paid as such.
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