Jimmy Graham: Using The Hybrid Tag
By Greg Barber
With the decision on New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham’s franchise tag tender coming in a few days, there has been mention of the need for a hybrid franchise tag. Of course there should be a hybrid tag, but how should it be done?
Joel Corry, who is a writer for the National Football Post and former agent, wrote an interesting article on how to modify the franchise tag system in the NFL. And he made a lot of great points, including how the individual franchise tags are not recognizing how the game has changed over the years, especially when it comes to positions such as wide receiver, tight end, linebacker and defensive end.
The truth is, other than the quarterback position, almost every player on the field can be deemed a hybrid in some manner or another. There are several players who will play at least two different positions depending on the situation and the play call. Corry's plan is to meet in the middle between the wide receiver and tight end franchise tag in Graham's situation. He feels this is a good idea and would actually work.
But what may be a better idea to simplify the process is to create a standard hybrid franchise tag.
This tag will be helpful to players such as Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas and San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis in their future negotiations. The latter is already staging a holdout until his contract is negotiated. Although Davis has two years left on his contract, he knows Graham’s grievance could be helpful to him getting a pay raise.
The Saints cross-train their players to learn more than one position in case of injury and add to the versatility of both units. S Kenny Vaccaro is also used as a nickel cornerback when Rob Ryan wants to play a three-safety backfield.
So when he becomes a free agent and, if he ends up playing cornerback more than safety, this is a situation where the hybrid designation would come into play.
This season, there is a $3.4 million difference in average pay between a top cornerback and a top safety. Now it may be a stretch to compare Vaccaro to a top cornerback, but the rules apply to percentage of time lined up at the position, not overall ability to play the position.
With the hybrid franchise tag, it will only have to meet in the middle, so if Vaccaro were to be tagged a hybrid, he should get over $10 million for that season. Also, the hybrid tag can only be used if there is a player who lines up in other positions more than his designated position. If he does not, then he will only get his position franchise tag.
This approach can simplify the process because it can be used on any position it is needed and it cuts down the debates on whether a player plays one position or another.
How this is different from Corry’s idea is that the hybrid tag keeps players who do not meet the necessary criteria won't force teams to give them more money under the franchise tag.
Graham is a great example for this tag because he has the proof: he has lined up as a wide receiver more than as a tight end so he would qualify automatically with no need for a hearing. Graham could wind up getting $9.5 million instead of the $7 million he is getting now.
A standard hybrid tag would eliminate the need for hearings and help the franchise tag rules catch up with how the NFL has changed, because right now the rules are behind the times and both the NFL and NFLPA missed the boat in 2011.