NFL: Saints’ Star Jimmy Graham Fighting Tight End Franchise Tag

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 Source: Jaseman, Flickr

Source: Jaseman, Flickr

Since you can’t keep a good Graham down (sorry), the NFL Player’s Association is filing a grievance on behalf of of the New Orleans Saints’ tight end, Jimmy Graham, arguing that the team’s recent franchise tag undervalues the athletic TE, who should be — according to the player and the NFLPA — identified and treated as a wide receiver. Why the contention? Since Graham lines up well over half the time “out wide or in the slot,” according to ESPN. Oh, and because if he’s ruled to be a wide receiver, Graham will be paid about $5.25 million more.

The Franchise tag, memorably described by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell as “the NFL’s version of a promise ring. It’s a team’s way of showing a player that they care — and might be amenable to a long-term commitment in the future — without actually making that commitment whatsoever,” guarantees a one-year payment that is the average of the five largest salaries at that position, but keeps the player from receiving any of the bonuses or contract benefits that really differentiate the best NFL contracts from the not-so-best.

At its worst, a franchise tag can rob a player of a salary they’ll never have the opportunity to see again — the average NFL career is brutish and short, to crib from Hobbes, and injury can strike at any time. A one-year franchise tag means a nice chunk of change, but if a player finds himself waylaid for the season, there’s no guarantee that the big contract that caused him to get franchised in the first place will materialize. Put plainly, it’s just another way for the NFL teams to control player movement and ensure that free agency is as much of a headache for their players as possible.

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