Jimmy Graham will indeed be considered a tight end in contract negotiations with the New Orleans Saints after an official ruling by arbitrator Stephen Burbank on Wednesday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
As a result of the ruling, the Saints should be able to save millions this season if Graham plays under the tag and doesn’t negotiate a long-term deal. Under league rules, Graham will make $7.053 million, a drop of roughly $5 million from the payout for wide receivers.
Graham, one of the most prolific receivers in football, entered this offseason hoping to be classified by the league as a wide receiver. Because tight ends make significantly less via the franchise tag, which New Orleans will likely use on Graham, he was hoping to reap the benefits of being considered at the more lucrative position.
That led to an arbitration hearing in Louisiana once the two sides failed to reach an agreement, with Burbank presiding over the proceedings in mid-June. At the hearing, Graham’s representatives argued that he often lines up in the slot like a receiver, and coupled with his impressive production, should be considered as such.
The Saints disagreed, arguing that Graham primarily plays tight end and generally considers that to be his position. They even argued that he refers to himself as a tight end on his official Twitter account, bringing a social media aspect to the case.
Burbank ultimately didn’t buy the player’s arguments, though, for a number of reasons. Rapoport notes that Graham was originally drafted as a tight end and attends positional meetings with the Saints’ other tight ends, so that’s ultimately where the arbitrator felt he should ultimately be slotted.