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New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham prepares to stop Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud during the second half of an NFL football game on Nov. 21, 2013, in Atlanta. (Associated Press)

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham prepares to stop Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud during the second half of an NFL football game on Nov. 21, 2013, in Atlanta. (Associated Press)

Graham's case coming to a conclusion

Last Modified: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 11:22 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Is he or isn’t he; only his arbitrator will know for sure.

Or at least his decision will be final.

The saga of Jimmy Graham is coming to a conclusion.

Graham wants to be paid as if he is a wide receiver. The Saints want him to cash out as a tight end.

At stake is some $5 million and change, perhaps even the Saints season as well.

After being franchised by the team in the offseason, Graham — the club’s top pass catcher and Drew Brees’ go-to guy — is under contract to play for about $7 million this fall.

He wants more.

Graham wants to be considered a wide receiver, thus earning over $12 million.

Big bucks are on the line when the arbitrator hears the case tomorrow. The decision will likely lead to more issues.

Graham could lose the case and decide to sit out, or at least not show up to camp when the season starts. That could force the Saints to either play without him, trade him or pay him under a new deal.

Things will be up for grabs.

You can’t blame Graham or his camp for wanting every dime they believe he deserves. Pro football is a business.

But Graham does seem to want his cake and eat it too in this case.

He calls himself the tight end of the New Orleans Saints on his social media sites. He has also earned extra bonus dollars for making the Pro Bowl as a tight end in the past.

Wonder if Graham is willing to give that money back if he is declared a wide receiver.

Here’s an interesting fact: last year two teams played him as if he was a wide receiver and not a tight end. In those two games, one being the playoff loss in Seattle, Graham caught one pass — total.

Maybe he should stick to being a tight end.

The position name really doesn’t matter. It is about the match-up problems he presents on the field. That is what counts.

Brees could care less. He just wants his main target out there playing. He missed him at a recent mini camp and knows what a happy Graham could mean to this offense and this season in New Orleans.

“I would hate to not have Jimmy,” Brees said in a recent USA Today article. “I’m very confident that a deal will get done. But if it doesn’t, you worry about what you have to and who you don’t have out there.”

That might have been a subtle message to management that the quarterback wants his guy at just about any price.

Brees should know the business of football pretty well by now. He himself was a holdout from mini camps last year while dealing with his own contract issues.

That worked out for all parties.

But Graham is different. He is not the face of the franchise and he is not as loved by the city like Brees.

Graham is a big piece of the puzzle in New Orleans, but Brees is the key to the season.

That leaves Graham both exposed and tradeable.

It could also leave the Saints exposed. They don’t want to start a season without Brees’ best weapon.

You would think the two sides could come together and make a new deal that pleases everybody.

It worked for Brees last year.

But this seems to be headed in a different direction.

Graham wants to grab as much cash as he can before he grabs another pass from Brees.

It could leave both sides without a game plan.

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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