There has been a lot of debate as of late about whether the New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham is a tight end or a wide receiver. In the grand scheme of things, the position he's listed at doesn't really matter, but for Graham, it's the difference between a $7 million franchise tag and one worth $12.3 million.
Considering Graham plays both tight end and wide receiver, perhaps the simplest solution would be to meet somewhere in the middle and simply give him a new designation for his position. The Detroit Lions' Eric Ebron seems to be in favor of that idea, as he thinks that versatile players like Graham and himself shouldn't strictly be considered tight ends. From the Free Press:
"I believe we should start either being called a hybrid or joker," Ebron said at a Play 60 event during the NFL’s Rookie Symposium today. "I think the ‘tight end’ word or name is traditional, but it’s overplayed. It’s overplayed into what people assume a tight end is."
Ebron isn't wrong. A few years ago, if you heard that someone was a tight end, chances are you'd think of a player who lines up with his hand in the dirt and spends quite a bit of his time blocking. Tight ends like that still exist, but there are seemingly more and more players like Graham and Ebron entering the NFL each year. They will still have to block at times, but generally speaking, their main attribute is causing matchup problems in the passing game from various positions on the field.
Interestingly enough, Jon Gruden has been using a different designation for these kinds of players for some time now. He has been using the "joker" term since at least 2002, and he believes it applies to "tight ends who can play anywhere, in the backfield, at tight end and from the wide receiver position." In other words, it's a player who can serve as a wide receiver or an H-back and still be dangerous from the traditional tight end spot as well.
Again, at the end of the day, it doesn't necessarily matter where teams list players like Ebron or Graham on their roster. They may be considered tight ends, but their designation won't limit their role or anything like that. For the purposes of the franchise tag, however, this debate is a pretty big deal for Graham and future players in his shoes, and it'll be interesting to see if he's ultimately considered a tight end, a wide receiver or a hybrid of those two positions.