Graham, one of the NFL's top receivers over the last three seasons, is arguing that he should be paid as a wide receiver after the Saints chose to use a franchise tag on the 27-year-old.
As a tight end, Graham would make $7.053 million during the 2014 season. But even though tight end is his official position, Graham is arguing that he plays more of a wide receiver role on the team, and therefore should make an inflated $12.132 million.
Graham definitely has a case. Over the last three years, he has averaged over 142 targets per season, far more than any of the official receivers on the team. He recorded a total of 3,507 yards and 36 touchdowns during that span. He's the only non-receiver in the NFL to rank in the top 25 in receiving yards and touchdowns each of the last three seasons.
Last season, he led the NFL with 16 touchdown catches.
Graham's battle could cost the Saints over $5 million in 2014, but how much could the outcome affect the Detroit Lions?
Lions tight end Joseph Fauria is reportedly keeping a close eye on this case, saying that the importance of the position has increased around the league. With guys like Graham and New England's Rob Gronkowski, it's hard to argue that opinion.
Fortunately for the Lions, Fauria, their second-best end zone receiving option, is signed through the next two seasons for around $1 million. The tight end signed a three-year $1.5 million deal before breaking out as a rookie last season.
Detroit also locked up its other starting tight end this offseason, rewarding Brandon Pettigrew with a four-year $16 million deal in March. The 29-year-old has struggled with drops during his five-year career in Detroit, but the Lions like what he brings to the offense.
The final and newest piece to the Lions' dangerous tight end core is first-round draft pick Eric Ebron. Though he hasn't played a single snap in the NFL, and is battling drops during training camp, Ebron expressed his interest in the Graham case on Twitter.
"Really Interested To See What Happens To Jimmy Graham," the 21-year-old out of North Carolina tweeted on June 18.26592698
Ebron signed a four-year deal worth over $12 million with the Lions after being selected No. 10 overall in the draft.
The Lions could certainly end up paying their talented tight ends more money in the future if Graham wins his case, but signing all three of their top options may have saved them millions in the short term.
Detroit plays its first preseason game on August 9 against the Cleveland Browns.
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