With Jimmy Graham's grievance hearing scheduled to begin one week from Tuesday, a league source indicated that the NFL Management Council will make a strong counterargument against the NFL Players Association's claim that he should be considered a wide receiver instead of a tight end for franchise-tag purposes.
At stake is whether the New Orleans Saints should be required to offer Graham a one-year franchise-tag salary of $12.3 million instead of $7.035 million -- not to mention a tremendous amount of leverage in long-term contract negotiations.
"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."
The NFLPA, meanwhile, will argue that Graham should be considered a wide receiver since he lined up for 67 percent of his snaps in either the slot or out wide last season (according to ESPN Stats & Information).
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."
A neutral third-party arbitrator will have to determine what exactly constitutes lining up as a tight end.
It's a debate that has grown in recent years as the modern passing game has continued to evolve. Other tight ends have talked about making the same argument, such as Jared Cook and Jermichael Finley.
But this will be the first time the debate has actually reached the point of a grievance hearing.
Jimmy Graham hearing next week