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Jimmy Graham deemed tight end in system arbitration

Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled Wednesday that New Orleans Saints star Jimmy Graham is indeed a tight end, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Media's Albert Breer.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows Graham to appeal the decision to a three-member Appeals Panel within 10 days of the decision. The NFLPA announced in a statement they will "carefully determine next steps in this matter."

Graham had filed a grievance arguing that he deserved to be designated as a wide receiver under the franchise tag because he spent more time out wide and in the slot than at the line of the scrimmage, as tight ends did in the past.

Burbank concluded that Graham was aligned close enough to the line of scrimmage (four yards) for a majority of plays to be disqualified from the wide-receiver designation. Essentially, the slot doesn't count as out wide for franchise-tag purposes.

That decision will set a precedent for future disputes.

The ruling comes as no surprise to us. Graham identifies himself as a tight end in his Twitter bio. He goes to meetings in the tight end room. He aligns out wide and in the slot because that's what tight ends do in today's NFL.

It's certainly fair for the NFLPA to claim the need for a new hybrid designation -- as recently suggested by Lions rookie Eric Ebron.

The traditional definition of a tight end is outdated. More germane to the conversation at hand, it places an unreasonable cap on the value of the best "joker" tight ends -- a relatively new position that deserves to be compensated at a rate closer to wide receiver.

The upshot for Graham is that he only loses a modicum of leverage in long-term talks with the Saints. One of the primary reasons for his grievance was an avenue to significantly raise the guaranteed portion of his next contract.

If Graham does not reach agreement with the organization on a new contract by the July 15 deadline, he will play out the season under the $7.053 million franchise tag. We fully expect Graham to remain in New Orleans under a new deal, whether that happens in the next two weeks or in the 2015 offseason.

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