Jimmy Graham has 301 catches for 3,863 yards and 41 touchdowns in four NFL seasons. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's grievance hearing will begin next Tuesday, during which the NFL Players Association will argue that the 27-year-old, who led the NFL with 16 receiving touchdowns last season, should be considered a wide receiver instead of a tight end for franchise-tag purposes.
On Tuesday, a league source told ESPN.com's Mike Triplett the NFL Management Council will counter by saying that splitting a tight end out wide is nothing new.
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"The union's position is a naked cash grab," the source said. "It ignores Mr. Graham's use as a traditional tight end on roughly 60 percent of the snaps where he lined up within 4 yards of the tackle. It also ignores the historical use of the tight end position.
"Since the days of Mike Ditka, coaches have split the tight end wide to gain information about the defensive set and gain a matchup advantage. According to the union's position, last year's All-Pro tight end was not a tight end and Mike Ditka was a wide receiver."
If Graham wins, his franchise-tag salary will be $12.3 million instead of $7.035 million, as franchise-tag players get the average of the top-5 highest paid players at their respective position.
It would also set a precedent for tight end hybrids, who often split out and catch passes.
Graham lined up in the slot or out wide on 67 percent of his stats last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Writes Triplett: "According to the letter of the law, 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.'"SI WIRE: Report: Chiefs CB Sean Smith arrested for drunk driving