Jimmy Graham is widely considered the best tight end in the NFL. But with his free-agent status looming, and the possibility of him being tagged by the New Orleans Saints as a franchise player, he has some beef with the decision if they tag him as a tight end.
Graham has been such an integral component of the Saints' success that he believes he should be tagged as a wide receiver, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:
No progress yet for Jimmy Graham and #Saints. If, as expected, he’s tagged as a TE, expect an immediate grievance to be tagged as a WR— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 18, 2014
The idea here is that Graham believes he should get paid the same money as the top wide receivers in the game rather than what the top tight ends are paid. The way the franchise tag works is the player must earn at least the average of the top five players in the league at that position.
According to Spotrac.com, the average for the top five wide receivers sits at $11.3 million for the 2014 season. Meanwhile, the average for a top-five tight end is set at $5,594,000.
Despite the fact that Graham will likely file a grievance following the decision, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said he believes Graham is a tight end, according to Katherine Terrell of The Times-Picayune:
"This business about what position he is? I think he's a tight end," Loomis told Terrell. "That's where we drafted him, that's where we play him. In our view he's a tight end. That's what makes him valuable."
The 27-year-old would earn a considerable pay cut if he was tagged as a tight end, but there's no escaping paying him like the best tight end in the league if Loomis plans to keep him in New Orleans.
The 2010 draft pick is so crucial to the Saints' success that NFL AM actually posed the question as to whether or not Graham was the most important free agent in the NFL:
So is Jimmy Graham the most important free agent a team needs to lock up heading into 2014?? If not, who do you think? #ViewerFeedback— NFL AM (@NFL_AM) February 17, 2014
But after clearing up a considerable amount of cap space by cutting a few key players to last year's playoff team, Joseph Person of the The Charlotte Observer notes that it was likely because the Saints plan to pay Graham:
Jimmy Graham about to get paid. RT @lcorryjoel: Saints pick up $16.905M of cap room by releasing Will Smith, Roman Harper & Jabari Greer.— Joe Person (@josephperson) February 12, 2014
Whether or not the Saints decide to tag Graham as a tight end, they will have to wait for the NFL's decision as to whether or not he should be seen as a wide receiver instead.
Should Graham be tagged as a wide receiver?
Graham had 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013. Those numbers were posted while Graham was playing with a torn plantar fascia and an injured elbow.
Those numbers certainly scream out statistics for a No. 1 wide receiver on nearly any team in the NFL.
But the Saints haven't confirmed whether or not they will tag Graham as either just yet. While Loomis has said he would consider Graham as a tight end, he still has time to pay him what he believes he's worth as a free agent.
If Graham is correct in his evaluation of his skill set being more similar to a wide receiver, it could mean he'll be seeing over $5 million more in 2014.
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