The New Orleans Saints slapping Jimmy Graham with the franchise tag comes as no surprise to anyone. What comes next is where it gets interesting.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that before Monday's deadline, the Saints will use their franchise tag on the tight end. Or is he a receiver?
Graham lined up as a traditional tight end on only about 33 percent of plays, according to ESPN and Pro Football Focus. The Saints will argue that he's a tight end, and the projected franchise tag for tight ends is about $6.8 million. For receivers it's about $11.8 million, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. That's obviously a huge difference.
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Graham's unique skill set has made him one of the NFL's best players (86 catches, 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns last season), but it sets up a huge battle with the Saints. The Times-Picayune said Graham wants about $12 million a year on a long-term deal, which would make him the highest paid tight end ever ... if he's a tight end. Graham and his agent will file a grievance once the franchise tag is slapped on him.
The Saints would be smart to make one of their best players happy, but it's also understandable if they can win the battle and get the $5 million discount. Then one has to wonder if Graham will try to hold out.
Contract disputes are nothing unusual in the NFL. Complaints about the franchise tag being used aren't either. But this battle is a little different than any that have come before it.
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- Jimmy Graham
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