Allen Kim

Saints' Jimmy Graham Ruled A Tight End

Jul 02, 2014 6:00 PM EST

The New Orleans Saints are going to save a lot of money this upcoming season now that Stephen Burbank, the arbitrator presiding over the Jimmy Graham position case, has officially ruled Graham to be a tight end.

Graham is set to earn $7 million under the franchise tag as a tight end, compared to $12.3 million he could’ve earned as a receiver. That $5.3 million difference is a sizeable gap, and Graham and his agent certainly can’t be happy about it. They’re likely to file an appeal before the July 15 deadline to get a long-term deal worked out.

“I conclude that Mr. Graham was at the position of tight end for purposes of Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) when, at the snap, he was aligned adjacent to or ‘arm’s-length’ from the nearest offensive lineman and also when he was in the slot, at least if such alignment brought him within four yards of such linemen,” Burbank wrote in his ruling.

A mere four yards was the difference between Graham being designated a tight end and not a wide receiver. Burbank deemed that distance to be close enough to allow Graham to perform three of his primary functions as a tight end: to block on running players, to block on passing plays and to run routes.

“The NFLPA will review with Jimmy Graham the decision from Arbitrator Stephen Burbank which permits the player to be designated as a tight end for Franchise Tag purposes,” the NFLPA said in a press release. “We will advise Graham of his options and carefully determine next steps in this matter.”

Making things even more awkward is the fact that coach Sean Payton allegedly testified against Graham in the case, giving Burbank even more ammo to use in his ruling against Graham designation.

The Saints now have roughly two weeks to sign Graham to a long-term deal, and it’s certainly possible that another team signs him to an offer sheet that the Saints are unwilling to match.