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Arbitrator rules Jimmy Graham is a tight end

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

More NFL offseason: League minicamp dates | Latest news, notes

Just like his Twitter bio says, Jimmy Graham is, in fact, a tight end. That's the ruling from arbitrator Stephen Burbank, reports NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. And unlike Twitter, this has franchise-tag implications for the Saints' playmaker.

Now Graham, who hinted that he would file a grievance if he was franchised as a tight end, will make $5.3 million less in 2014 than he would if was recognized as a wide receiver; franchised tight ends will make $7 million while wide receivers will get $12.3 million.

The NFLPA released a statement shortly after the ruling:

"The NFLPA will review with Jimmy Graham the decision from Arbitrator Stephen Burbank which permits the player to be designated as a tight end for Franchise Tag purposes. We will advise Graham of his options and carefully determine next steps in this matter. We will also continue to assist Graham and his representation as necessary to help the player reach a fair long-term deal with the New Orleans Saints."

Next up: Graham can appeal the decision within 10 days to a three-member appeals panel. He could also refuse to sign the franchise tender and sit out the 2014 season. Tagged players have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract with the team, and they have until Nov. 11 to sign their tenders.

The ruling gives the Saints leverage ahead of any contract talks. The team can franchise Graham again following the 2014 season -- as a tight end (which is expected to be $8.46 million in '15).

According to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, "Graham and the NFLPA were banking on the notion that Burbank would assign a more literal definition to the wording in the collective bargaining agreement, which 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.'"

Jimmy Graham remains a tight end. (USATSI)
Jimmy Graham remains a tight end. (USATSI)

Back in March, Saints quarterback Drew Brees offered Graham advice that remains relevant in light of the latest development: "I just told him be patient," Brees said. "Don't get frustrated. Don't take it personally. It's part of the deal and it's hard and ... you just want it to be over. You want certainty. That's the hardest part."

In case there was any doubt, Graham is one of the league's most dynamic players. He had 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and was the No. 1 rated tight end, according to Football Outsiders.

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