New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is appealing the arbitration ruling saying he is a tight end, per multiple reports.
"Jimmy Graham isn't satisfied with the NFL's ruling.
"The New Orleans Saints star has appealed the league's arbitration decision that he is a tight end for franchise tag purposes. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Graham wishes to be considered a wide receiver.
"Graham filed the appeal hours before the Monday night deadline. A three-member appeals panel will oversee the case under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.
"Rapoport and NFL Media's Albert Breer reported that significant progress has been made in the negotiations between Graham and the Saints, per sources informed of the situation.
"Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled earlier this month that Graham is indeed a tight end. Under the franchise tag for the position, Graham would make $7.053 million in 2014, compared to $12.3 million for receivers. Graham had filed a grievance arguing that he should be designated as a wide receiver because he spent more time out wide in the slot than at the line of scrimmage.
"Drew Brees' favorite target was electric (when healthy) in 2013, posting 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has led the league in touchdowns over the previous three years combined. It would be wise for the Saints to lock up Graham long-term, but as of last week the sides were at 'ground zero' in negotiations, per Rapoport.
"Graham has yet to sign his tender, and the deadline for franchise players to reach long-term deals is Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. The fact that Graham filed an appeal has no effect on this deadline. In fact, Rapoport reported that both the Saints and Graham hope to reach an agreement ahead of the deadline, thus rendering the appeal 'moot.'"
Graham's appeal coincides with the Saints about to offer him a mega deal, per ESPN:
"Perhaps being a tight end will pay off, after all.
"As Jimmy Graham continues to fight that he is a franchise wide receiver instead of a tight end, he is closing in on a deal with the Saints that will pay him big money, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
"The two sides are nearing a long-term deal that will make Graham the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, according to those sources. The sides are now actively trying to put the finishing touches on a long-term deal and there is optimism the deal will get done by Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, according to sources.
"The deal should put to rest any concern of lingering animosity from the negotiations, which included a groundbreaking arbitration hearing in which Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis testified against Graham's wide receiver argument.
"Graham was angling for an even bigger payday when he filed the grievance, asking to be declared a receiver instead of a tight end for franchise-tag purposes. But his request was ultimately rejected by arbitrator Stephen Burbank earlier this month.
"Since drafting Graham out of the University of Miami in the third round in 2010, the team and player player have been a perfect fit.
"Over the past three years, the former college basketball player has led all NFL players with 36 touchdown catches, while averaging 90 catches, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns per season. He was a first-team All-Pro last season and a Pro Bowler in 2011 and 2013."