Sports and Scores
 

Arbitrator rules Saints' Graham is a tight end

(AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

By BRETT MARTEL


Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The Saints' Jimmy Graham and the NFL Players Association were dealt a setback Wednesday when an arbitrator ruled that he can only be considered a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag designation.

NFLPA had filed a grievance arguing that Graham was used as a wide receiver often enough to qualify for the more lucrative receiver tag. But arbitrator Stephen Burbank disagreed and now the NFLPA is reviewing his ruling, and will advise Graham on his options, which could include an appeal.

Graham's case is being closely watched around the league because it could set a precedent for negotiations involving players who fill diverse roles in their teams' offensive or defensive schemes. For example, some outside linebackers in a 3-4 defensive scheme could argue their right to receive the higher defensive end tag.

NFL franchise tags, which allow each team to keep one prized player who is due to become a free agent, were set this year at $7 million for tight ends and $12.3 million for receivers.

Burbank, who is also a University of Pennsylvania law professor, found that Graham could fulfill the standard duties of a tight end when he was lined up in the slot or within 4 yards of an offensive tackle, as he was for most of his snaps.

Burbank further pointed out that defenses usually accounted for Graham as a tight end, regardless of his alignment, by assigning a linebacker or safety to cover him.

"Like tight ends, wide receivers and running backs often line up in the slot," Burbank's ruling stated. "The defense employed against any player so aligned turns on the player's position, not his alignment, because of the physical attributes and skill sets of the players in those positions."

Burbank indicated there could be merit to the NFLPA contention that Graham cannot be considered a tight end when he does in fact line up as a wideout. However, because both sides stipulated that Graham lined up within 4 yards of an offensive tackle for nearly 55 percent of his snaps, Burbank said he did not need to address the minority of instances in which offensive formations employed by Saints coach Sean Payton placed Graham at a wider distance from the offensive line.

The NFL's collective bargaining agreement states that franchise tags should be applied according to the position at which a player lines up for the majority of his snaps.

Graham has skipped Saints offseason practices while holding out for a new, long-term contract. A favorable ruling from Burbank would have further enhanced negotiating leverage for Graham, who last season led the Saints with 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said the club would have no comment on the ruling, and Sexton did not respond to a request for comment.

In its statement, the NFLPA said: "We will also continue to assist Graham and his representation as necessary to help the player reach a fair long-term deal with the New Orleans Saints."

Such disputes are not frequent, but draw lots of attention because of their potential to set a precedent.

Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year, argued in 2008 that he should be tagged as an end, not a linebacker. The difference back then was about $800,000. That dispute ended when Suggs signed a new long-term contract with the Ravens. He later helped them win the 2012 NFL championship.

July 15 is the final day a team can sign 2014 franchise players to long-term extensions. Otherwise, they must play under their franchise tag designation for one season, after which they would be set to become free agents.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Updated July 2, 2014

? © 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Audio On Demand

It Is What It Is Cast: Gr…

It Is What It Is Cast: Gronk cleared as Pats prepare for start of training camp

WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss the start of Patriots training camp. Players began arriving for camp on Wednesday, and Bill Belichick broke the news that Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to play.

Tom E. Curran, CSNNE, Recapping Patriots OTAs 6-20-14

Tom "Eugene" Curran joins the guys to discuss how the Patriots look coming out of OTAs. Then Christian and Lou discuss the Patriots playbook scandal.

It Is What It Is Cast: Tom Brady's present and future

WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss Tom Brady's work in mini-camp and his response to recent criticism of his play.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Bo…

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Boston, "I think Rondo is going to go, I just don't see where and how yet" 7-17-14

Jackie Mac joins the guys to discuss her thoughts on a possible mid-season tournament in the NBA, LeBron's return to Cleveland, trade rumors with the Celtics and Red Sox, and Darrelle Revis' contract situation.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Boston: I believe Rondo will be traded 7-10-14

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston to talk about the Lebron James Saga, the possibility of Rajon Rondo being traded, and the future of Marcus Smart.

OK State Men's Basketball coach, Travis Ford, joins MFB to talk about Marcus Smart, 6-30-14

Former coach of Celtics 1st-round pick Marcus Smart, Travis Ford joins MFB to talk about what Celtics fans should expect from the strong point guard. Among other things, Coach Ford says Smart will be a hard worker, and will improve his shooting ability.

John Farrell with Dale an…

John Farrell with Dale and Holley

We check in with the manager of the local nine to get his take on the Sox recent hot run, the performance of the pitching staff and much more.

Buster Olney, ESPN, talks about the impending MLB trade deadline, 7-23-14

With the non-waiver trade deadline a mere 8 days away, Buster talks about the market for guys like Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy, Koji Uehara, and the injuries Dustin Pedroia might be dealing with.

Red Sox catcher, David Ross, joins MFB, 7-23-14

David Ross joined the show to talk a little bit about his foot injury, but mostly about some of the other guys on the team. He spoke about Jackie Bradley Jr's defense, Pedroia's leadership, and how well Christian Vasquez is playing.

The Bradfo Show: Talking …

The Bradfo Show: Talking Bruins roster moves with DJ Bean, Turtleboy

Rob Bradford is joined by WEEI.com Bruins beat writer DJ Bean, as well as Boston sports fan/blogger Turtleboy to talk all things Bruins free agency. With the B's recent moves, the conversation turns to where the Bruins might next turn and what kind of dent losing Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton might make.

DJ Bean breaks down the first hours of NHL Free Agency 7-1-14

DJ discusses Shawn Thornton's new deal, and the on going negotiations with Jerome Iginla

DJ Bean, WEEI.com. The Bruins are not traded Marchand 6-13-14

DJ Bean joins the program to dismiss the recent rumors that the Bruins are in discussions to trade Brad Marchand to the Sharks for Patrick Marleau

Headlines, Headlines, Hea…

Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: Starbucks tattoo 7-23-14

The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.

Jake Peavy is done 7-23-14

The guys discussed Jake Peavy's 1-9 record this season.

Minihane returns 7-23-14

The triumphant return of Kirk Minihane.

Red Sox catcher, David Ro…

Red Sox catcher, David Ross, joins MFB, 7-23-14

David Ross joined the show to talk a little bit about his foot injury, but mostly about some of the other guys on the team. He spoke about Jackie Bradley Jr's defense, Pedroia's leadership, and how well Christian Vasquez is playing.

Three For All: Landscaping goats, 7-23-14

Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher puts peanuts in his Diet Coke, and Tim learns that this is actually normal,... in the south. Lou learns that he can get his yard trimmed up nice by goats. Christian sparks a conversation about the stupidest things ever done in the name of love.

Buster Olney, ESPN, talks about the impending MLB trade deadline, 7-23-14

With the non-waiver trade deadline a mere 8 days away, Buster talks about the market for guys like Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy, Koji Uehara, and the injuries Dustin Pedroia might be dealing with.

John Farrell: No thought …

John Farrell: No thought of taking Jake Peavy out of the starting rotation at this point

We check in with the manager of the local nine to get his take on the Sox recent hot run, the performance of the pitching staff and much more.

Sidney Rice chooses his health over everything else with retirement announcement, will this continue to be a trend in the NFL?

We discuss Sidney Rice's retirement from the NFL, and the greater issue, which is concussions and head injuries in the NFL.

Dale and Holley's Four at Four - Patriots Preview Edition - 7-23-14

We tackle four topics all revolving around predictions and concerns for the Patriots entering the 2014 season.

Jon Lester's Contract Sit…

Jon Lester's Contract Situation and the Future

Mut and Villani are talking about whether the Red Sox will give Jon Lester the type of contract he is looking for, or whether they might be shopping him with rumors of the Red Sox scouting Cole Hamels.

The All Star Game and the Worst Ideas in Sports

Mut and Villani are talking about the MLB All Star Game, Adam Wainwright and Derek Jeter, and what are some of the worst ideas in sports.

We're all yelling about LeBron James

Danny O Show - Canelo vs …

Danny O Show - Canelo vs Lara recap, Ronnie Shields

Danny breaks down the Canelo vs Lara fight and the controversy. Mike Tyson's former trainer Ronnie Shields joins the show.

The Bradfo Show: Talking hitting leadoff with Brock Holt

Rob Bradford is joined by Red Sox leadoff hitter Brock Holt, who since being inserted into the top spot in the batting order has been among the best leadoff men in baseball. Heading into Tuesday night, no other leadoff hitter has had more hits (77) since May 23, with Holt having played every inning of every game during that stretch.

Producer's Podcast with Julian Edlow 7-22-14

This week, Sam Packard and Zach Geld talk about the Post-Pierzynski Red Sox. Julian Edlow of the Green Street Blog, joins the program to analyze the Celtics off-season, and finally an over-eager discussion of fantasy football.

Minihane returns 7-23-14

Minihane returns 7-23-14

The triumphant return of Kirk Minihane.

More from this show

Steve Buckley on Tony Dun…

Steve Buckley on Tony Dungy's comments 7-22-14

Steve Buckley joined the show to discuss Tony Dungy's comments on Michael Sam.

More from this show

Sox seem to be alive agai…

Sox seem to be alive again, so are you back in?

We talk Sox after a sweep over the Royals at Fenway. We look at fan interest and how nothing in the AL East is even remotely decided at this point.

More from this show

Peter Gammons on the Sox …

Peter Gammons on the Sox and Jon Lester 7-21-14

MLB HOF'er Peter Gammons joined the show to discuss what the Sox will do with Jon Lester.

More from this show

Headlines, Headlines, Hea…

Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: Starbucks tattoo 7-23-14

The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.

More from this show

Weei Writers