An Instance of Undue Generality in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement

I was vaguely aware of news accounts of the contract travails of Jimmy Graham, a player for the American football team the New Orleans Saints. But it was only after reading this post by Megan E. Boyd (aka @LadyLegalWriter) on her blog Lady (Legal) Writer (after being told about it by Steven Sholk) did I realize that it fell within my jurisdiction.

I won’t go into the details, which are too arcane for me, but the issue was what Graham’s pay would be, given that the Saints had placed a “franchise tag” on him. How much a franchise player gets depends on his position, and the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement states that the franchise-tag designation is based on the position “at which the Franchise player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.” But how you figure that out turned out to be far from straightforward. Go to this ESPN article, although it’s rather garbled, for further details.

The arbitrator, Stephen Burbank, noted that there were “a number of sources of ambiguity” in trying to determine Graham’s position. But I’d class this as an instance of undue generality, not ambiguity. For more about undue generality, see this 2008 post.

By the way, it all ended happily for Jimmy Graham, as recounted in this Sports Illustrated story.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.