Updates from Tuesday, May 13
The grievance hearing over Graham's franchise-tag designation has been scheduled for June 17-18, according to a league source. It's unclear whether a third-party arbitrator has been selected.
Triplett also provided a statement from Saints general manager Mickey Loomis:
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis declined to answer specific questions about the pending debate over the weekend, but he did say the Saints' side of the argument will be handled by the management council.
'Obviously we get consulted and talked with,' Loomis said. 'But that's the management council's duty.'
The players' association will present Graham's case.
Updates from Saturday, May 10
The Advocate's Ramon Antonio Vargas has an update on Graham's hearing:
#saints GM Mickey Loomis expects Jimmy Graham grievance hearing will be in about a month.— Ramon Antonio Vargas (@RVargasAdvocate) May 10, 2014
Updates from Thursday, May 8
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis talked about the grievance filed against the team by Jimmy Graham (via Mike Triplett of ESPN):
#Saints Loomis on Graham filing grievance over tag: Didn't come as surprise. No hard feeling. Natural to use every tool available to him ...— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) May 8, 2014
The New Orleans Saints likely had an inkling that they would be in for a battle when they placed the franchise tag on superstar tight end Jimmy Graham in March. The first shot was finally fired Wednesday.
According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the NFL Players Association has filed a grievance against the Saints in relation to the tag:
The NFLPA has filed a grievance against #Saints on behalf of Jimmy Graham. Franchise-tag fight is on.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 7, 2014
The issue regarding New Orleans' decision to franchise Graham is the nature of the tag itself. Per NFL.com's Chris Wesseling, Graham was tagged as a tight end, which means he would make just over $7 million in 2014 as opposed to over $12 million had he been tagged as a wide receiver.
Graham is a tight end in name, but the manner in which head coach Sean Payton and the Saints have utilized him within the offense suggests that he is more of a hybrid between a tight end and wide receiver.
According to Pro Football Focus, Graham stayed in to block on an extremely low percentage of the Saints' pass attempts in 2013:
Jimmy Graham was kept in to pass protect on 4.8% of NO passing snaps last year. The crazy thing is that's NOT the lowest mark among 'TEs'— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 18, 2014
Stats such as that one will help the NFLPA's case, but this promises to be a long and arduous process regardless of the result.
Per Pelissero, it isn't yet known when the grievance will be heard:
No hearing date set for Graham grievance. Presumably, it'll get pursued on an expedited basis.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 7, 2014
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been mum on the status of long-term contract negotiations between the team and Graham, but Larry Holder of NOLA.com points out that the pending grievance likely had something to do with that:
No wonder Mickey Loomis said there's been no progress with Jimmy Graham's contract. Grievance is the step both side have been waiting for.— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) May 7, 2014
Based on the huge gap in asking price and what the Saints are willing to pay, the grievance doesn't come as a particularly big surprise:
This was the inevitable next step when no deal was struck between #Saints and Graham. Difference of over $5M could swing leverage in talks.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 7, 2014
Graham has been a key contributor to New Orleans offense over the past few seasons, so losing him after the 2014 campaign would be a major blow. With that in mind, NFL Network's Albert Breer believes that the two sides will eventually reach a deal although it figures to come down to the wire:
5) My sense is the Jimmy Graham deal does get done, but probably -- like so many of these are closed out -- close to the deadline in July.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 11, 2014
Earlier in the offseason, Graham spoke about the franchise tag and playing without a long-term contract in New Orleans (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com):
Graham said it is the team's prerogative to use the tag, but he'd rather not play on the one-year deal.
"If that happens, it doesn't really matter what I prefer," he said.
"I'm not keen on the franchise tag, that would be really unfortunate, but that is really all I have to say about that one," he said.
Graham, 27, has put up at least 85 catches for 982 yards and nine touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, so he is unquestionably going to receive a huge contract at some point—whether from the Saints or a different franchise.
Which side do you support in this grievance?
There isn't another tight end in the league athletic enough to do what Graham does in the Saints offense, which means that Graham likely has the upper hand in these negotiations.
Graham's positional status is very much subjective, and the result of the grievance figures to set a major precedent for pass-catching tight ends moving forward.
Graham is a one-of-a-kind player, and that is why this process will prove to be a difficult one.
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