As reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN, the arbitrator ruling over the Jimmy Graham case, Stephen Burbank, expects to have his ruling in on Thursday as to whether he will be considered a wide receiver or tight end. The impact of this decision will obviously have an impact on Graham and his career, but could extend to some of the players that were selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including the tenth overall pick and new Detroit Lion, Eric Ebron as well as Jace Amaro who was selected by the New York Jets. Both may be legitimately able to make they are receivers when contract talks come up, should they succeed and warrant a substantial extension.
The difference for Graham will be felt immediately as he is under the franchise tag with the New Orleans Saints and would make a big difference in the compensation; he would get more money as a receiver. Most of Graham’s case centers around the percentage of plays he participates in what he argues is a wide receiver role. Not only does this represent a difference in money that would go to Graham or players like Graham, the situation represents a potential tax shed for the NFL.
In effect, a player like Ebron could be labeled a tight end because it saves the team money and helps them in terms of the salary cap. Ebron played both a reciever lined up on the outside, in the slot as well as an inline tight end at times in his career at North Carolina. Basically, by simply saying he is big, they can call him a tight end and improve their financial flexibility.
The question becomes if a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Carolina Packers were to line up Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin inline for a situation, could they then hold their respected sizes against them and call them tight ends for the same benefits. Between the amount of tight ends that are coming in sleeker than the traditional nature from which the position was invented as well as huge receivers the size of these hybrid tight ends, this issue could come up more and more.
The question for the Players Association as well as the teams in the NFL is if they will want to make a system for determining this that works faster than the current one or if this current climate is what to be expected. They may have to come up with a set of guidelines to follow with this or they will just have to have someone basically on standby to make rulings that work faster than the current approach.