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Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Barring a seismic shift in their positions over the next week, the New Orleans Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham will conduct a $5 million debate starting June 17. The two sides will argue whether Graham should be deemed a ...

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Old 06-13-2014, 08:22 AM   #1
Threaded by biloxi-indian
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Barring a seismic shift in their positions over the next week, the New Orleans Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham will conduct a $5 million debate starting June 17. The two sides will argue whether Graham should be deemed a tight end or a wide receiver under the franchise tag rules, which pay a player a one-year salary that averages the top five annual incomes at the position heading into next season.

Per the NFL management council, which represents the league's 32 teams, the Saints will contend that Graham is a tight end, which would earn him $7 million for the 2014 season if the two sides don't work out a long-term deal by July 15.

Graham, despite his Twitter profile, and his camp argue Graham's usage in the Saints' offense should translate to being paid like a wide receiver, which would bring a heftier $12.3 million price tag in 2014 under the franchise tag rules.

The chief argument benefitting Graham entering the grievance hearing is that he lined up as a "wide receiver" 67 percent of the snaps in 2013 and as an in-line tight end the rest of the time, according to ESPN and Pro Football Focus.

Teams treated Graham as if he were a wideout in some situations last season by placing a cornerback on him in pass coverage. But despite opponents defending Graham as if he were a wideout, no personnel executive or front-office type would dare consider him a true wide receiver.

A top-flight wide receiver is typically covered by a cornerback on every play.

I charted every pass route Graham ran last season, including the postseason, and cornerbacks were involved in coverage on 177 of Graham's 630 routes. Brees only threw a pass toward Graham 38 times in the 2013 season against a cornerback. Graham caught 20 of those 38 passes (52.6 percent success rate).

Graham's 52.6 percent success rate vs. corners would rank 91st out of 111 wide receivers last season, nestled between St. Louis' Brian Quick and former Cowboys wideout Miles Austin, according to the catch percentage rate compiled at Pro Football Focus. It would be the lowest rate among Saints wide receivers. By comparison, teammate Marques Colston ranked 11th last year, catching 70.1 percent of the passes thrown his direction.

Here's how Graham compares to the top five receiving yardage leaders last season: the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon, 58.4 catch rate percentage; Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown, 69.2; Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson, 56.8; Denver Broncos' Demaryius Thomas, 66.7; and Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green, 57.0.

Graham's overall completion percentage stood at 58.8 percent, which is better than three of the aforementioned players. But it didn't hurt that a safety, linebacker or lineman covered Graham 72 percent of the time in 2013 (454 pass routes).

Imagine the success of any of the previously mentioned wideouts if they saw the bulk of their matchups against a defender other than a cornerback.

Graham finished with 90 catches for 1,267 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, including the postseason. Only 20 of his receptions were made against a cornerback, for 258 yards and four touchdowns. Graham caught a pass only 11.3 percent of the time a cornerback covered him.

Predictably, Graham created most of his damage when not covered by a cornerback, catching 70 passes for 1,009 yards and 12 TDs last season vs. other defenders. Brees targeted Graham 115 times in this situation (75.2 percent of Brees' targets to Graham) and completed passes to Graham on 60.9 percent of his throws.

The difference in how defenses played Graham was evident during his monstrous run at the front end of last season.

The Saints' tight end exploded with 10 receptions for 179 yards and one score in Week 2 at Tampa Bay. What did it look like when the Bucs put a cornerback on Graham in that matchup? Thirteen cornerback matchups, four targets, three receptions, 31 yards.

Graham produced a few more eye-popping stat lines in Weeks 3 and 4 against Arizona and Miami. But cornerbacks such as Jerraud Powers, Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll clamped down on Graham those two weeks as well.

Week 6 at New England opened the eyes of the rest of the league in how to defend Graham.

It was the only game in 2013 when a cornerback followed Graham wherever he lined up throughout the entire game. Aqib Talib shadowed him out wide, in the slot and even covered Graham in his traditional tight end role along the offensive line. The smothering cornerback coverage didn't stop when Talib left the game with an injury.

The stats run deeper than the 0-fer Graham put up that day. The totals from Week 6 vs. New England: 24 cornerback matchups, six targets, no receptions, one interception.

In the most glaring display of a team treating him as a receiver, there's no reason to consider Graham an elite wideout deserving $5 million more under the franchise tag.

Then there was Graham's disappearing act in the NFC divisional playoff game at Seattle.

The Seahawks covered Graham with a cornerback 13 times in the playoffs, compared to six times during the regular-season matchup in Week 13. Brees targeted Graham only once out of those 13 occasions as Seattle threw four corners at Graham during the Saints' loss (Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane). Graham's only catch came in the final seconds, and it wasn't with a cornerback on the assignment.

A theory has been bandied about that the Saints lined up Graham along the line more as the 2013 season progressed to prevent Graham's eventual claim in contract negotiations that he was utilized primarily a wide receiver.

Sorry to debunk the thoughts of underhanded scheming by the Saints. But Graham was more effective lined up near the offensive line or with his hand on the ground because it created better matchups against non-cornerbacks. It was an on-field strategy, not one for on-the-books record keeping in the accounting department.

He lacks the speed and route-running ability to beat most cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage and out of his breaks. That's why the Saints invested a first-round pick in May on speedy wideout Brandin Cooks to team with fellow receivers Colston and Kenny Stills.

Graham is an All-Pro tight end and deserves to be paid as such. The Saints have no qualms about making him the highest-paid tight end in the league, surpassing the six-year, $53 million deal struck in 2012 by New England and Rob Gronkowski.

Graham, however, wants to be considered a wide receiver to ultimately get paid like one. But as the results show, when treated like a receiver by defenses, Graham doesn't fit the bill.

New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver | Larry Holder | NOLA.com

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Last edited by papz; 06-13-2014 at 12:32 PM..
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:03 AM   #2
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

On June 16 they should look at not just how many times he lined up at wideout, but how many times he was targeted as a wideout.
Then we can franchise him as a decoy
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:17 AM   #3
 
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

What's the tag price on a decoy? $3?
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:32 AM   #4
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

Originally Posted by SmashMouth View Post
What's the tag price on a decoy? $3?
What was Reggie making before he left?
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:35 AM   #5
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

So much for opinions, when is the thing supposed to actually be ruled on?
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:42 AM   #6
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

Originally Posted by Seer1 View Post
So much for opinions, when is the thing supposed to actually be ruled on?
hearing starts June 16, might run to the 17th

the fact that we haven't restructured Grubbs or curbed our spending at all makes me think Loomis feels pretty confident going in
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:47 AM   #7
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

Both sides know the result is just a bargaining chip.
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:51 AM   #8
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

I think as soon as this appeal ruling comes down, there will be a contract pulled out the desk drawer for Jimmy to sign within a couple of days. Similar to the Drew deal, which happened absurdly fast after the ruling came down. For all we know, Loomis and Graham's agent may even have agreed to the outlines of TWO contracts, ready to go, in the desk drawer, just waiting for which ever way the arbitrator rules.
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:56 AM   #9
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

Originally Posted by SaintsBro View Post
I think as soon as this appeal ruling comes down, there will be a contract pulled out the desk drawer for Jimmy to sign within a couple of days. Similar to the Drew deal, which happened absurdly fast after the ruling came down. For all we know, Loomis and Graham's agent may even have agreed to the outlines of TWO contracts, ready to go, in the desk drawer, just waiting for which ever way the arbitrator rules.
I agree' I think the arbitration is just a stunt by the PA, and that JG gets $10 mill and we move forward.
The problem now is that we are only 1.5 mill under the cap. The contract needs to be a Loomis special with a high back end
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:09 AM   #10
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Re: Saints' Jimmy Graham a franchise tight end, clearly not a wide receiver

Ignore the headline figure when the deal is done. Only fighures that matter is the guaranteed money and cap hits in first 3 or so years.
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