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NFL Franchise Tag Should be Based on Production not Position

Is Jimmy Graham a tight end or a wide receiver? The real answer is: it shouldn't matter!

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As we're already well aware of, the Saints are prepared to use the franchise tag on Jimmy Graham if a long-term deal isn't reached before the tag deadline. We also know there probably won't be a long-term deal in place before the tag deadline. Ergo, it's very likely the Saints are going to tag Jimmy Graham and according to Mickey Loomis you better damn well believe it's gonna be as a tight end.

And if that's the case, you also better damn well believe Graham will file a grievance arguing that wide receiver was actually, as the CBA says, "the position in which he participated in the most plays" during the 2013 season. Not tight end. Because the wide receiver tag is going to be worth about $5 million more.

But while we all sit around debating whether or not Graham is a wide receiver or a tight end, nobody seems to be asking the more obvious question: why is there such a discrepancy between the value of the two tags in the first place?

Are you telling me that the amount an NFL pass-catcher is worth is directly proportional to their proximity to the tackle at the snap? If there is anything that the emergence of players like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski has taught us, it's that tight ends are now just as valuable to an offense as wide receivers in today's NFL, if not more so. The notion of tight ends being less valuable is now, quite simply, antiquated.

Graham had 16 touchdowns last season, 11 more than any other player on the Saints. He had 1,215 yards receiving, nearly 300 more than Marques Colston and at least twice more than any other pass-catching Saints player. Other than Drew Brees, there was arguably no more valuable player for the Saints in 2013. Yet the ceiling for Graham's salary under the franchise tag is set disproportionately lower than any of those other players simply because of his designation on the depth chart.

I'm torn here. Though I'd really love to see the Saints just pay the man as deserved and put this matter behind them, the team is cash strapped; if they can get more bang for their buck with Jimmy than it leaves more money to pay other players.

And if the issue does get pushed through arbitration with a favorable ruling for Graham, it sets a new precedent for all tight ends in the future. Which is what needs to happen. There's no reason Jimmy should make less money than the players around him despite greatly out-producing them. The game of football is ever changing. The league rules need to change with it.