NFL Media's Albert Breer recently reported that the New Orleans Saints still anticipate reaching agreement with Jimmy Graham on a long-term contract prior to the July 15 deadline for players under the franchise tag.
Although last week's ruling that Graham is not a wide receiver lends leverage to the Saints, there has been no public acknowledgment from the tight end's camp that he's willing to accept less money than his production merits.
Retired tight end and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez has provided insight into Graham's predicament, pointing out that the NFL is the only major professional sport league in which salaries are slotted by position.
"I can think of a few terms to describe what's going on in the NFL, like 'backward,' 'lack of common sense' or 'behind the times,'" Gonzalez wrote on CBSSports.com, "but the one that makes the most sense is 'discrimination.' Salaries should be set based on production and contributions, not positions."
Gonzalez's column emphasizes the point recently made by Lions rookie Eric Ebron: The NFL needs a new hybrid designation for highly productive tight ends starring in the "joker" role first popularized by Kellen Winslow Sr. in the early 1980s.
Unfortunately, the NFLPA's hands are tied on this issue until the current CBA expires early next decade.
Absent that mechanism to ensure that premier tight ends are compensated fairly, contract haggles are to be expected.
Back in 2001, Gonzalez missed all of training camp under the franchise tag before landing the most lucrative contract for a tight end in NFL history.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport has suggested Graham could follow suit in withholding his services if the Saints don't meet his asking price by next week's deadline.