Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints have had a tough time finding common ground with regard to a contact extension. The organization doesn’t mind putting a franchise tag on him, but the disagreement has expanded to whether Graham should be paid like a top wide receiver or a top tight end. After all, he lines up as a wide receiver 67 percent of the time.
The difference in pay is a whopping $5 million ($12 million for wide receivers, $7 million for tight ends). Even though he holds eligibility for the tight end position in fantasy leagues, he has a point. There aren’t any other players at his position producing at the level he has over the past three years in New Orleans.
As with most arbitration hearings, it can get ugly. Graham will see a side of the Saints and the league he’s never seen before. Three main arguments are being brought against him. He meets in the tight end room for meetings and to watch game film, he lines up as a tight end and he identifies himself as such on his Twitter profile:
It pretty ridiculous that a Twitter bio is part of an argument for an arbitration case, but such is the times in 2014. This will not be a quick decision, as there is a lot at stake.
One thing to come from this case, whether it’s in favor of Graham or the Saints, is a new precedent being put into place moving forward. The numbers he put together last season — 86 catches for 1,215 yards and a league-high 16 touchdowns — are usually the statistics we see a top wide receiver put together, not a tight end.
Graham is clearly at the top of his position and is helping usher in a new brand of tight ends. Season-long fantasy leagues are drafting him in the first round. No matter how valuable some have been in the past, that barely used to happen in recent years.
Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar made a solid point in reference to this particular contract dispute:
It was bound to happen at some point, but Graham has accelerated the process. Whatever this decision is, it will be a landmark one, changing the nature of contract negotiations moving forward.
Do you think Graham deserves to be paid like a top wide receiver because of his workload and production? Or should be he paid like a tight end because that’s technically what his position is?