NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) — The NFL has formally designated New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
The designation was released Monday after the deadline passed for NFL teams to use franchise or transition tags on players becoming free agents.
Because Graham often split out from the offensive line as a receiver would, there have been questions concerning whether the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement calls for Graham to have a receiver’s tag, worth $12.1 million. Graham still could file a grievance, leaving an arbitrator to decide which tag is appropriate.
As a non-exclusive franchise player, Graham is free to negotiate an offer sheet with another NFL team. The Saints could either match that deal or accept two first-round draft picks as compensation.
Similarly, the Saints used their franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees in March 2012, then needed a little more than four months to work out the five-year, $100 million deal Brees signed shortly before training camp.
Like Brees, Graham is represented by Creative Artists Agency. They do not have the same agent. Graham is represented by Jimmy Sexton and Brees by Tom Condon.
Graham has said publicly during the Pro Bowl in February that it would be “unfortunate,” if the team used the franchise tag on him, but on Friday he reacted to the move with subtle humor.
Afterward, Graham wrote on his Twitter account, “Confirming it’s officially Franchisefriday… TAG … I guess I’m it.”
Graham, a former college basketball who played one year of football at Miami, was drafted by the Saints in 2010. Last season, he led the Saints in catches with 86, yards with 1,215 and touchdowns with 16.
He has led the Saints in catches in each of the past three seasons, while leading the club in yards receiving and touchdowns in two of the last three seasons. During the past three regular seasons combined, he has 270 catches for 3,507 yards and 36 touchdowns.