In case you were wondering, yes, Jimmy Graham is in fact a tight end. An arbitrator ruled on Wednesday that Graham is a tight end for purposes of the franchise tag designation. The New Orleans Saints applied the tag to Graham, labeling him a tight end for purposes of the tender. By designating him a tight end instead of a wide receiver, the team saves $5 million.
You can read the full decision HERE.
Graham argued that he spent more time split out from the line, and that was a strong reason to label him a wide receiver. Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer have tweeted some content from the decision. The arbitrator declared Graham a tight end for several reasons, including:
1. He was aligned within 4 yards of the offensive line for a majority of plays during the 2013 season.
2. He was in tight end meetings
3. He references himself as a tight end on his Twitter bio, which he and his agents control
The 4 yards from the offensive line sets a precedent that players and teams are going to keep an eye on moving forward. I have a hunch we'll see plenty of player-team discussions over where the player lines up.
As soon as the Graham ruling was announced, numerous people asked how this would impact Vernon Davis. Albert Breer even tweeted this:
Maybe the next big name the Graham decision affects would be 49ers TE Vernon Davis, presuming he follows through with his holdout.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 2, 2014
Vernon Davis has acknowledged that he is a tight end. In early June, he was asked about Graham's situation. He said he was rooting for Graham, but he also stated that he was a tight end because of his all-encompassing game.
I would argue this ruling could potentially benefit Davis to some degree. Graham is expected to appeal the decision, but I would not be entirely surprised if the two sides worked out a deal that helped split the difference a little bit. That conceivably would mean a sizable chunk of change for Graham, and it would move up the overall average pay for tight ends.
If I'm Vernon, I'm actually more rooting now that Graham gets a new contract. Vernon could use that contract in his own negotiations. I'm not saying the 49ers would buy that angle, but it's one more tool in his negotiation. If Graham had been ruled a wide receiver, if he worked out a new deal the 49ers could simply say, well, he's a wide receiver, so we don't need to factor in his new contract for our negotiations with you, Vernon.
This is all assuming Graham gets a new deal. If he eventually signs his franchise tender and reports to the Saints, I don't think this has any real impact on Vernon Davis's own situation. I think Davis ends up back with the team at the start of camp, or at least at some point during camp. Vernon could change his mind once again and hold out, but my guess is he is back with the team sometime before Week 1.