New Orleans Saints star tight end Jimmy Graham is one of the most prized impending free agents around, but he will most likely stick around with the Saints for at least another year. While they would ideally like to sign their superstar TE to a multi-year deal, the franchise tag looks like the much more likely scenario. Of course, that’s where the battle comes into play, as Graham is vehement that he should be designated as a wide receiver and tagged as a WR. The difference between the franchise tag for a TE and a WR is immense, and Graham will try as hard as possible to plea his case for more paper under the tag.
Last night, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that not only have the Saints and Graham failed to make progress in contract talks, but that Graham is expected to make “an immediate grievance” to be tagged as a wide receiver, if the Saints tag him as a tight end. If the Saints do use the franchise tag on him, then they will obviously designate him as a wide receiver.
Graham isn’t the only “joker” tight end looking to make more money by arguing his case as a wide receiver, as a potential battle between the Baltimore Ravens and Dennis Pitta, who appear to have more interest to get a deal done but have not made significant progress either, regarding the franchise tag could also be brewing. Jared Cook got into the same argument with the Tennessee Titans last offseason before losing his battle, but then he signed a lucrative deal with the St. Louis Rams in free agency.
While Graham lines up plenty of times in the slot, I really don’t think he has a case here. He’s called a tight end by just about everyone, and that’s because the role of the TE has changed in this league, partially thanks to the New England Patriots creative usage of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (you know, before he killed someone). TEs aren’t just “in-line” players, so it would be ridiculous for Graham to win this battle. That said, the franchise tag for TEs will most likely go up in the future due to the increased emphasis on the position as a weapon (take a look at Eric Ebron’s draft stock for reference), but guys like Graham won’t get to benefit from that now.