Exactly one week away from the the beginning of a protracted grievance hearing with franchise-tagged tight end Jimmy Graham, the New Orleans Saints may have some good news regarding the case.
A league source tells ESPN's Mike Triplett that the NFL Management Council is expected to make a "strong counterargument" against the NFLPA's claim that Graham should be designated as a receiver under the tag. The Players Association claims that Graham should be tagged as such based on the fact that he played 67% of his 2013 snaps lined up out wide or in the slot. Were Graham to be tagged as a receiver, he would stand to earn over $5 million more than a tagged tight end. Jimmy Graham's grievance hearing will take place next week.
It is likely that the Management Council views Graham and the Players Association's stance as nothing more than a financial issue as opposed to a Football one. As the source points out, the NFLPA ignores Graham's "use as a traditional tight end on roughly 60 percent of the snaps where he lined up within 4 yards of the tackle. It also ignores the historical use of the tight end position."
Graham and agent Jimmy Sexton are said to be seeking an annual salary between $10-12 million. Regardless of the outcome of next week's hearing, the Saints and Graham could come to a long-term agreement on a new deal before July 15. After that date, Graham can only play under a one-year contract in 2014.
An independent third-party arbitrator will preside over the case. If things play out in the Saints' favor, Jimmy Graham will, at worst, be playing under a one-year pact next season while earning about $7.035 million. Ideally, both sides will hammer out a long-term extension that suits one another before the start of training camp.
Only time will tell what conclusion the abritrator ultimately reaches. However, if today's news is any indication, the Saints should walk into next week's hearing with an air of confidence knowing that the league's Management Council appears to be firmly in their corner.