Wide receivers2 tagged with the franchise label earn $12.31 million per season, whereas franchise tagged tight ends make $7.04 million — a $5 million difference. Further, Graham’s classification may drastically affect the amount of leverage he has in negotiating a long-term contract.
|Figure 1. Average touchdowns and average yards for every wide receiver and tight end since 1994|
|Figure 2. Average receptions, yards, and touchdowns by class with examples|
So is Jimmy Graham a tight end or a wide receiver? According to this analysis, Graham is in a group of super-elite pass catchers that includes the best of the best wide receivers and only four other tight ends (Gates, Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, and Jason Witten). It seems, then, that Graham is closer to a receiver than a tight end. Despite the NFL’s ruling, Graham’s production puts him near the top of all pass catchers — and suggests that he should be paid like an elite wide receiver rather than a tight end.
3 http://www.statistics.com/index.php?page=glossary&term_id=467 and http://members.home.nl/jeroenvermunt/ermss2004f.pdf↩
4 Remember, that’s an average season over entire careers; it takes into account both players’ rookie season and seasons later in their careers when they may not have produced that much. Further, that average includes wide receivers and tight ends.↩