All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham has yet to sign the franchise tag the New Orleans Saints used on him in February. In the unlikely event Graham doesn’t work out a new deal with the Saints, former agent and CBSSports.com contributor Joel Corry explained in a column published Thursday that he believes the Browns could be a suitor partly because All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon reportedly faces a potential season-long suspension from the NFL for another violation of its substance-abuse policy.
Graham could sign an offer sheet with another team, giving the Saints five days to match it. If the Saints declined to match an offer, they would receive two first-round picks, one in 2015 and another in 2016, as compensation for losing Graham.
The Browns have $25.1 million in salary-cap space, second most in the league, according to the NFL Players Association. They also have two first-round picks in next year’s draft, including one acquired during this year’s draft in a trade with the Buffalo Bills.
The NFLPA filed a grievance on Graham’s behalf this month because he was listed as a tight end for purposes of the franchise tag, but he’ll argue that he spent more time at wide receiver last season. According to ESPN.com, Graham’s snaps were divided the following way: 45 percent as a slot receiver, 33 percent as an in-line tight end and 22 percent as a wide receiver. The franchise number for tight ends is $7.053 million compared to $12.132 million for wide receivers.
Regardless of the grievance hearing, which is scheduled for June 17-18, Corry wrote that the most likely scenario will be Graham signing a long-term deal with the Saints. The deadline for franchise players to sign long-term deals with their teams is July 15.