After weeks of debate regarding Jimmy Graham’s positional classification, arbitrator Stephen Burbank has correctly decided the New Orleans Saints’ star pass-catcher is indeed a tight end and not a receiver.
The Jimmy Graham decision is out. Burbank has ruled he’s a tight end. The Saints have won
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 2, 2014
With the likelihood of the Saints placing the franchise tag on Graham this offseason, the team was set to pay him the $7 million and change that comes with it. However, Graham, with the backing of the NFLPA, wanted to be compensated as a wide receiver, which would have resulted in a franchise tag number of just over $12 million.
The Saints’ offense is a wide-open, pass-happy one that saw Graham catch 86 passes for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. His yardage total ranked 15th among all NFL players, his reception total was 13th and he was first in receiving touchdowns, although he was No. 1 among tight ends in all three categories.
The kicker here is the big deals recently given to New England Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, although the latter is now behind bars. It can be argued Gronkowski is even more valuable to his team than Graham as a pass-catcher, and he never once claimed to be a receiver or demanded to be compensated as one.
Sure, Graham is in a class of his own right now with Gronkowski missing a lot of time due to injury, but that doesn’t make him a receiver. He still lines up as a tight end in the Saints’ offense and functions as one: he’s a security blanket for Drew Brees and a big, red-zone target, just like most elite tight ends.
Graham’s greed is the only thing that drove this effort in the first place and the NFL will be better off as a whole with the ruling that Graham is, and always will be, a tight end.