Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! An arbitrator has ruled that, for the purpose of his franchise tender amount, Jimmy Graham is indeed a tight end.
In explaining his decision, Stephen Burbank says that, at the snap of the ball, Graham was within four yards of an offensive tackle 54% of the time.
Why four yards?
As Jason Lisk notes, the line had to be drawn somewhere, and the point can and will be argued.
It's a substantial victory for the Saints and every other team with a pass-catching tight end who is or will be up for a new contract.
Like, say, the Broncos and Julius Thomas.
This decision will save the Saints more than $5M in both cash and cap terms on Graham's 2014 salary - the franchise tender is a touch over $7M for tight ends, and more than $12M for wideouts.
If Denver should end up tagging Orange Julius next offseason, they'll reap that same benefit, even if an argument for Julius as wide receiver was already weaker than Graham's to begin with.
It's been suggested that the Broncos are hoping to sign one of Julius or Demaryius Thomas before training camp, leaving the other to be tendered next spring.
Back to the Saints and Graham - just because his franchise tender is only worth ~$7M, doesn't mean he's worth only that much per season.
If they want to sign him long-term, New Orleans will likely have to make Graham the game's highest paid tight end, a distinction currently held by New England's Rob Gronkowski ($9M/per).
But it's not just about how the Saints value Graham; other teams could extend offers to the fifth-year star.
And according to Mike Freeman, a handful of teams may do just that.
The CBA appears to allow franchise-tagged players to sign offer sheets through November 10 this year.
Unfortunately for Graham, his options are few - agree to an extension closer to the Saints' terms, sign an offer sheet elsewhere, or hold out.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and the Broncos and Julius Thomas are sure to be among the keenest observers.
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