ESPN is reporting that a hearing date of June 17-18 has been set on the grievance Saints All-Pro Jimmy Graham filed last week.
While it’s not clear whether a third-party arbitrator has been selected, ESPN’s Mike Triplett said, at the heart of the matter is how much New Orleans owes Graham under a franchise tag they gave him around early March.
The Saints handed Graham a franchise tag as a tight end due about $7 million. But Graham filed a grievance through the NFL Players Association that he is owed in excess of $5 million more, arguing that he lined up much more as a wide receiver than as an in-line tight end.
Franchise tags for wide receivers are worth about $12.3 million this year.
Graham would not even play under the tag if he and the team can settle on a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline that replace his now-expired rookie contract.
Any ruling issued by a third party in regards to the grievance would give the winning side significant leverage in arguing how much money Graham deserves in contract negotiations.
Since arriving in New Orleans as a third-round draft selection in 2010, Graham’s 41 touchdown receptions are fourth all-time and the most for a tight end in the Saints record book.
His 301 catches and 3,863 receiving yards rank sixth and seventh all-time for the Saints, and they’re each tops among tight ends who have suited up for the franchise.
He holds single-season team records for catches (99 in 2011) and receiving touchdowns (an NFL-best 16 last year). He has gone to two Pro Bowls and helped the Saints to the playoffs in ‘10, ’11 and ’13 before his rookie contract expired.
Official UDFA list
Meanwhile, the Saints released their official list of undrafted rookie free agent signings on Monday. Many of the names on it had filtered out via social media and news reports in the previous couple of days.
The 17 undrafted rookies who have signed deals to join the Saints’ expanded preseason roster are center Matt Armstrong (Grand Valley State), wide receiver Brandon Coleman (Rutgers), cornerback Brian Dixon (Northwest Missouri State), pass-rusher Kasim Edebali (Boston College), running back Timothy Flanders (Sam Houston State), outside linebacker Spencer Hadley (Brigham Young), tight end Je’Ron Hamm (Louisiana-Monroe, where he played wide receiver) and tight end Nic Jacobs (McNeese State).
More are wide receiver Seantavius Jones (Valdosta State), quarterback Logan Kilgore (Middle Tennessee State), defensive end Brandon McCray (Louisiana-Lafayette), Micajah Reynolds (Michigan State defensive lineman, though he’s reportedly switching to offense with the Saints), defensive end George Uko (Southern California), defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe (Colorado), defensive end Lawrence Virgil (Valdosta State), safety Pierre Warren (Jacksonville State) and safety Ty Zimmerman (Kansas State).
The Saints also signed free-agent guard Mike Golic Jr. to a deal that’s reportedly for two years. From Thursday to Saturday, New Orleans drafted Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks (first round), Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste (second round), California linebacker Khairi Fortt (third round), Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri (fifth round), Florida linebacker Ronald Powell (fifth round) and Kansas State tackle Tavon Rooks (sixth round).
Draft pick numbers unveiled
The Saints say Cooks will wear No. 10, Jean-Baptiste No. 33, Fortt No. 54, Sunseri No. 43, Powell No. 56 and Rooks No. 74.
Benson undergoes surgery
The Saints issued a news release stating owner Tom Benson underwent a 45-minute procedure to repair a torn medial meniscus in his left knee Friday
Benson will attend the upcoming NFL meetings in Atlanta on May 19-21, where New Orleans will present a bid for the 2018 Super Bowl.