An arbitrator is expected to make a ruling by the end of this week regarding the grievance filed by New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, and the decision could affect the hold out of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.
Graham’s grievance is regarding the franchise tag placed on him by the Saints. As a tight end under the franchise tag, Graham’s salary for 2014 would be around $7 million. Vernon on the other hand, who is under contract, is scheduled to make about $7.5 million this season.
Graham argues that his role with the Saints is more of a wide receiver than a tight end, and the statistics prove his argument. According to CSNBAYAREA.com writer, Matt Maiocco, Vernon Davis played more the traditional role of the tight end spot than Graham.
He was a true tight end on 64.5 percent of his offensive plays last season.
On the other hand, Graham only spent about a third of his snaps as a tight end and the other two-thirds lined up as a receiver. Graham contends he should be paid under the franchise tag as a wide receiver, which jumps his 2014 salary from $7 to $12 million.
Such a ruling in Graham’s favor could impact Vernon Davis and his stance on his contract holdout, at least in his eyes.
Vernon doesn’t exactly have the regular season statistics that Graham has. In the last two seasons alone, Graham has average 86 catches for 1,098 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Vernon in that time frame has averaged 46 catches for 699 yards and 9 touchdowns. Vernon has also seen 145 targets combined the last two seasons, Graham saw 142 just last year.
Although Vernon has been money in the playoffs, and is regarded as one of the top tight ends in football, a contract holdout that could extend into training camp could cause a rift between Vernon Davis and the 49ers. With camp set to begin in less than a month, Vernon and the 49ers must come to some type of agreement.
Either Vernon honors the contract he signed back in 2010 or the 49ers somehow rework the contract that pays him what he’s asking, either way there’s risk all around. The 49ers don’t have much money to play with and are still eyeing the contracts of Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati, who are set to become free agents after the 2014 season.
If an arbitrator rules against Graham, then Vernon will remain as the third highest paid TE in the league, but a ruling in favor or Graham, and Vernon falls to No. 4 on the list, and that might not sit too well with 85.
We’ll soon find out the ruling and whether it does indeed effect Vernon Davis and the 49ers. In the meantime, Vernon continues to hold out and the 49ers and their fans play the waiting game.