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Report: Jimmy Graham appeals arbiter's decision that he's a tight end

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Jimmy Graham wants to be paid like a wide receiver. (USATSI)
Jimmy Graham wants to be paid like a wide receiver. (USATSI)

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Jimmy Graham's Twitter bio might list him as a tight end, but he wants to be paid as a wide receiver. And nearly two weeks after an arbiter ruled that, for franchise-tag purposes, Graham was a tight end -- meaning he would make $5.3 million less in 2014 (franchised tight ends will make $7 million while franchised wide receivers are looking at $12.3 million) -- he has appealed the ruling, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

Graham filed the appeal just before the Monday deadline and now his case will be heard by a three-member appeals panel.

Meanwhile, another deadline looms for Graham and the Saints. The two sides have until Tuesday, July 15 at 4 p.m. ET to work out a long-term contract extension. The team reportedly has a $9.5 million-per-year offer on the table, which would make Graham the NFL's highest paid tight end.

If Graham plays under the franchise tag in '14 and '15, he would make roughly $15.5 million, which should serve as the floor for any long-term contract negotiations. And while there's no disputing Graham's place among the league's dynamic playmakers -- 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 -- the disparity in pay for tight ends and wide receivers remains an issue.

Future Hall of Fame tight end and current CBS Sports analyst Tony Gonzalez made this point in a recent column.

"I anticipate [Graham] will sign somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million per year over five years, which is great money," Gonzalez wrote on July 4. "But an elite wide receiver will make $14 million-$16 million per season. Let's say we even round down and give that receiver $13 million a year over the same span of five years; Jimmy Graham will miss out on $15 million as a tight end that he would make if classified as a receiver. Let's not forget that Graham is young and could easily play another 10 years, which means the same thing could happen to him for his next contract. He would miss out on that same $15 million again."

"That is $30 million he won't get because he's called a tight end and because the NFL slots salaries based on position names instead of by production. So in light of Wednesday's decision against Jimmy Graham, it's not just a loss for him but a loss for every player that wears the shield."

The clock is ticking -- for everybody involved.

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