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Arbitrator expects to issue Graham ruling on Thursday

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 29: Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints participates in warmups prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 29, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans won the game 42-17. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Stacy Revere

The Fourth of July is a day filled with celebrations all over the country, but some of the people involved in the Jimmy Graham franchise tag grievance may not be feeling much like fireworks come Friday morning.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that arbitrator Stephen Burbank expects to inform Graham, the Saints and the NFL of his decision “no sooner, no later” than Thursday. Both sides in the argument over whether Graham should be tagged as a tight end at a cost of $7 million in 2014 or if he should be tagged for the $12.3 million for wide receivers. Whichever way Burbank rules, you’d expect the loser to appeal.

The arbitrator’s ruling would give the two sides a firmer idea of how things will play out and, as a result, a possible framework for a long-term deal. The almost inevitable appeal could make a long-term agreement hard to come by, though, as the Saints and Graham face a July 15 deadline to get such a deal done before they’d have to put it off until after the 2014 season.

It’s not clear what the timetable for an appeal would be and even an expedited process may not reach its conclusion in 12 days, which may leave Graham with no choice but to play out the year under the ultimate terms laid down by the grievance process.