May 8 2014, 12:58am CDT | by Poch de la Rosa
"The NFLPA has filed a grievance against the New Orleans Saints on behalf of Jimmy Graham, according to a source.
"The grievance will likely contend that Graham, who was given the non-exclusive franchise tag as a tight end, should have been tagged instead as a wide receiver.
"The $12.3 million franchise tag price for a wide receiver is significantly higher than the $7.035 million issued to a tagged tight end.
"No hearing date has been set yet, according to USA TODAY. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, a neutral party arbitrator decides what position at which he should be tagged. The resulting decision would give one-party leverage in long-term contract negotiations.
"The contention will be that Graham line up more in a role befitting a receiver, rather than at the end of the line in a three-point stance as would a traditional tight end.
"That's partly reflected in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, which states a player's salary should be based on the position 'at which he participated in the most plays during the prior league year.'
"The previous CBA, which was initially ratified in 1993, defined the exclusive franchise tag as the position 'at which he played the most games during the prior league year.'"
Triplett also spoke with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, who said,"We disagree, and the system exists for us to have the ability to file grievances in those cases. And when we believe that there is a good basis to do so in order to protect our players, that's what this union does."
The ESPN report mentions it remains unclear why Graham decided to file the grievance at this time of the year. It could actually facilitate the negotiation process between New Orleans and Graham's agent, Jimmy Sexton, on the basis of the two sides coming to an agreement before a third-party arbitrator intervenes.
Triplett chimes in on the issue in a separate ESPN blog:
"As I've written before, I believe Graham should be considered a tight end. But I also believe he deserves to be paid like a top 10 wide receiver based on his production and his value to the offense.
"So go ahead and call Graham a tight end -- or a 'hybrid,' as quarterback Drew Brees likes to say. But pay him what he's worth. Maybe something like $10.5 million per year.
"Regardless of what that specific amount is, it would behoove both Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and Graham's agent Jimmy Sexton to figure it out on their own. Because even though they both believe they have strong cases in the tight end/receiver debate, neither can be assured of how an aribtrator will rule.
"The argument for a wide receiver designation is based on where Graham lines up. Last year, he spent 67 percent of his snaps either in the slot (45 percent) or out wide (22 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"And he led the Saints in every receiving category with 86 receptions, 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.
"However, the Saints will counter that lining up in those spots is part of the tight end's job description."
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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