As his teammates work through their final round of organized team activities, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will be in court today as his grievance hearing gets underway. Graham is hoping that an independent third-party arbitrator will rule in his favor, as he seeks to have the designation of his franchise tag overturned from tight end to receiver.
It has been well-documented that Graham would stand to earn over $5 million more if he were to be tagged as a receiver. Having played 67% of his 2013 snaps in the slot or out wide, Graham believes he has enough statistical evidence to help suppport his desire to be compensated under the tag as a receiver. Jimmy Graham's hearing begins today.
However, the Saints believe Graham is a tight end, having drafted him to play the position. Historically, tight ends have been used as versatile weapons, and Graham certainly falls into that category. The league's management council will deliver a strong backing in the Saints' favor, which will contend that Graham and his camp are strictly out to earn extra money, as opposed to contesting the tag for pure Football reasons.
Presiding over the case will be University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephen Burbank, who has crossed paths with the Saints before. Burbank ruled in Quarterback Drew Brees's favor two years ago, when the Saints' signal caller was contesting his own tag designation as a second-time franchise player. Additionally, Burbank ruled in the NFL's favor in 2012 to officially grant commissioner Roger Goodell the right to impose the league's strict punishment upon New orleans in the fallout of the bounty scandal.
Should Burbank rule in Graham's favor, it would create immediate salary cap issues, as the team has currently factored the player into it's cap plans for 2014. Should his price tag shoot up in excess of $5 million, additional cap space would need to be created to accomodate Graham's new salary figure.
Regardless of the outcome over the next two days, the Saints and Graham have until July 15 to agree to a long-term contract. If no agreement is reached by that date, Graham can only play in 2014 under a one-year deal. Graham led all pass-catchers with 16 touchdowns in 2013. The dynamic former Miami Hurricane Basketball player is hoping to become the league's highest-paid tight end.