Arbitrator rules Saints’ Graham is a tight end

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — An arbitrator has sided with the New Orleans Saints in ruling that Jimmy Graham can only be considered a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag designation.

The ruling Wednesday by Stephen Burbank is setback for Graham, agent Jimmy Sexton and the NFL Players Association, who’d filed a grievance arguing that Graham was used as a wide receiver often enough to qualify for the more lucrative receiver tag. Graham’s case is being closely watched around the league because it could set a precedent for negotiations involving players who fill diverse roles in their teams offensive or defensive schemes. For example, some outside linebackers in a 3-4 defensive scheme, who could argue their right to receive the higher defensive end tag.

NFL franchise tags, which allow teams to keep one prized free agent, was set this year $7 million for tight ends and $12.3 million for receivers.

The NFLPA says it is reviewing the ruling and will advise Graham on his options, which could include an appeal.

Graham has skipped Saints offseason practices while holding out for a new, long-term contract. A favorable ruling would have further enhanced negotiating leverage for Graham, who last season led the Saints with 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Such disputes are not frequent, but draw lots of attention because they hold the potential to set a precedent.

Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs, the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year, argued in 2008 that he should be tagged as an end, not a linebacker. The difference back then was about $800,000. That dispute ended when Suggs signed a new deal long-term contract with the Ravens. He later helped them win the 2012 NFL championship.

July 15 is the final day a team can sign 2014 franchise players to long-term extensions. Otherwise, they must play under their franchise tag designation for one season, after which they would be set to become free agents again. At that time, their respective teams could apply the franchise tag to them again as well.

More in Sports

Window opens for Seahawks to franchise tag DT Richardson

Seattle must decide whether to use the expensive tag or let the defensive tackle test free agency.

Cascade alum Souza traded from Rays to Diamondbacks

Arizona sends Brandon Drury to the Yankees in the three-team deal involving the former local prep star.

Phelps hoping for healthy season in Mariners’ bullpen

Seattle acquired the veteran to help an overworked staff last year, but injuries derailed the plan.

Silvertips defeat Chiefs, clinch playoff spot

Pilon and Dewar join the 30-goal club as Everett wins 4-1 to secure its 15th straight playoff berth.

Seattle begins season-ticket campaign for new NHL team

Beginning March 1, people can make refundable deposits for season tickets at NHLSeattle.com.

Local soccer players sacrifice to play with Sounders Academy

The talented youngsters say playing with the Academy has made them better people as well as players.

Paxton, not Felix, deserves Opening Day start for Mariners

Could Seattle’s marriage to the longtime star pitcher be heading for the rocks?

Q&A with Shorecrest High School’s hoops leader Julia Strand

Back from a knee injury last year, she’s everywhere on offense and anchors the Scots’ defense.

Silvertips travel to Spokane in matchup of in-form teams

Everett has lost once in regulation in its past 19 games, and the Chiefs have won three straight.

Most Read