It was less than two months ago that Saints quarterback Drew Brees found himself at the center of a media controversy when he confidently declared All-Pro teammate Jimmy Graham was “a tight end.”
When he appeared on NFL Network’s Total Access on Thursday night, Brees wasn’t going to make the same mistake. So, after being asked to once again wade into the league-wide debate about whether Graham is a tight end or a wide receiver, Brees flashed a wry smile and replied, “He’s a hybrid.”
“He’s re-writing the requirements of the person at that position,” Brees said. “Any guy like him that’s drafted in the future — the bar is Jimmy Graham.”
While Brees delivered his politically-sound answer, it certainly seemed the fallout that ensued after he replied to a similar question less elegantly was fresh on his mind.
In January, during an interview with NBC Sports Radio’s Erik Kuselias, Brees remarked of Graham: “He’s a tight end. He’s a tight end.”
Brees was only reiterating his team’s well-known stance: Graham is a tight end because that’s what he was drafted as, and that’s what he’s been to two Pro Bowls as. However, pundits promptly accused him of possibly hurting the earning potential of Graham, who everyone knew was going to be given a franchise tag.
Graham, who spent most of his time in 2013 on the gridiron lining up out wide for the Saints, was handed that one-year franchise tag as a tight end on Feb. 28. A franchise tag for a receiver is about $5 million more than it is for a tight end, and many believe Graham could file a grievance through the players union to be classified as a wideout for the purposes of payment.
Graham might not even play under the one-year franchise tag if he and the Saints can work out a long-term contract to replace the now-expired rookie deal he accepted from New Orleans as a third-round draft pick in 2010. But, if Graham goes through with the grievance, then it may be up to an arbitrator to determine exactly what position he is.
And Brees on Thursday made sure to not say anything that could be misconstrued as his taking a stand against Graham, who led the NFL in the regular season with 16 touchdown catches and the Saints with 1,215 yards receiving, impressive enough to make him New Orleans’ only First-Team All-Pro player last year.
“He’s an important part of our offense — he’s a match up problem,” Brees said about Graham on the program. “There is a place I can throw it where he can catch it and the other guy can’t.
“I want to be throwing to that guy a long time.”
Brees went on Total Access in part to promote the Microsoft Surface 2 computer tablet.