Tony Gonzalez recently wrote a piece that detailed his feelings on the Jimmy Graham arbitration fiasco that’s played out over the summer. Graham argued he should be paid like a receiver while the New Orleans Saints argued their tight end should be paid like a tight end — even if his numbers reflect that of the best receivers in the game. As you can imagine, former tight end and future Hall of Famer Gonzalez doesn’t think too highly of the NFL’s stance on the issue.
“I can think of a few terms to describe what’s going on in the NFL like ‘backward,’ ‘lack of common sense’ or ‘behind the times,’” Gonzalez wrote at CBSSports.com, “but the one that makes the most sense is ‘discrimination.’ Salaries should be set based on production and contributions, not positions”
The former tight end for the Chiefs and Falcons knows better than most what Graham has gone through. In his piece, Gonzalez details both of his contract negotiations that resulted in the highest valued tight end contract in NFL history at the time. Graham is now widely expected to receive a contract that will set the new standard for tight ends. Gonzalez says that’s not enough though.
I anticipate [Graham] will sign somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million per year over five years, which is great money. But an elite wide receiver will make $14 million-$16 million per season. Let’s say we even round down and give that receiver $13 million a year over the same span of five years; Jimmy Graham will miss out on $15 million as a tight end that he would make if classified as a receiver.
As Graham notes, if an NBA players averages big numbers, he gets paid big dollars. Period. The NFL is the only league where position matters so much. He certainly makes a compelling argument for production over position, but unfortunately even Gonzalez notes that there is little Graham or any other player can do until the next round of CBA negotiations, when the union might opt for clearer language that more directly ties production to contract size. Until then, Jimmy Graham will have to make do with whatever price his agent ends up exacting from the Saints for Graham’s services.