The agent of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Jimmy Sexton, is in town to negotiate with the team regarding his designation for the 2014 NFL season -- either as a tight end or wide receiver.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's franchise-tag grievance hearing is slated to begin on June 24.
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This was confirmed by ESPN's Mike Triplett:
"Is he a tight end or wide receiver? An answer is near as Jimmy Graham's franchise-tag grievance hearing is scheduled to begin Tuesday.
"Arbitrator Stephen Burbank will hear arguments from the NFL Players Association and the NFL Management Council to determine if Graham should be officially labeled as a tight end or a wide receiver for franchise-tag purposes. The proceedings will be held privately.
"And it's unclear how long it will take Burbank to issue a ruling, though one week is a fair guess based on past arbitration hearings.
"The hearing is being held in the New Orleans area, although the exact location is unknown, and is expected to conclude Wednesday.
"At stake is whether the New Orleans Saints will be required to offer Graham a one-year franchise-tag salary of $7.035 million or $12.3 million.
"Even more critical is how the ruling will affect their negotiations over a long-term contract. The two sides have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement, or else Graham can only play under a one-year deal this season.
"Graham's argument is that he should be considered a receiver because he lined up either in the slot or out wide 67 percent of the time last year. And the collective bargaining agreement states that the franchise-tag designation is based on the position 'at which the franchise player participated in the most plays during the prior league year.'
"However, what remains ambiguous is what officially constitutes lining up as a tight end, which has always been a hybrid between receiver and blocker -- especially in the modern passing game."
Contract talks between the two sides have been at a standstill for months. Graham's agent, Jimmy Sexton, aims to smooth things out by finalizing Graham's designation -- either as a tight end or wide receiver -- once and for all, per The New Orleans Times-Picayune's Katherine Terrell:
"Tuesday's grievance hearing wasn't the only time Jimmy Graham's representatives and the New Orleans Saints faced off this week.
"Graham's agent, Jimmy Sexton, flew to New Orleans from Memphis, Tenn., on Tuesday to negotiate with the Saints' front office face to face. Graham's hearing is also being held in New Orleans, according to the NFL Network.
"Contract talks have been at an impasse for months, as Graham filed a grievance disputing his franchise tag designation.
"The NFL Players Association is currently arguing that the NFL Management Council should have designated Graham as a franchise-tagged wide receiver, which carries a one-year salary of $12 million, as opposed to the tight end tag he received, which carries a $7 million salary.
"The Saints and Graham have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal, or Graham will have to sit out the season or play under the designated franchise tag.
"Graham's camp has contended he should be paid like a wide receiver and not a tight end. He lined up in the slot or out wide in 67 percent of his snaps last season.
"Aribtrator Stephen Burbank is overseeing the hearing and expected to rule next week. Burbank ruled against the Saints twice in 2012, once sliding with Drew Brees over his franchise tag dispute, and also ruling that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had the authority to discipline Saints players for their role in the team's bounty program."
The 27-year-old Graham is entering his fifth season with the Saints. He has amassed 3,863 yards and 41 touchdowns on 301 receptions, per ESPN stats.
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