Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled Wednesday that New Orleans Saints star Jimmy Graham should be designated as a tight end and not a wide receiver for purposes of the franchise tag.

Graham had filed a grievance against the Saints, who designated Graham as their franchise player this offseason. The difference between the franchise-tag salary for a receiver and a tight end is $5.3 million.

Graham would receive a $7.035 million salary if he signs the franchise tender as a tight end for 2014. The teams also have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal.

The NFL Players Association issued a statement saying it will review Burbank's decision, and Graham could still appeal.

"We will advise Graham of his options and carefully determine next steps in this matter," the statement read. "We will also continue to assist Graham and his representation as necessary to help the player reach a fair long-term deal with the New Orleans Saints."

Saints head coach Sean Payton testified at the grievance hearing last week that Graham should be designated as a tight end. The Saints' position is that tight ends routinely line up in the slot and that being split out is part of playing the position. Graham lined up wide for 67 percent of his snaps in 2013, but Graham was drafted as a tight end and attended position group meetings with the Saints' tight ends.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement bases a player's position on where the most snaps were taken during the season.

Graham set a new career high with 16 touchdowns last season. Through four NFL seasons, he has 301 catches for 3,863 yards and 41 touchdowns, averaging 12.8 yards per reception.

During workouts last month, quarterback Drew Brees said the team would not allow Graham's contract situation to become a distraction.

"We all know and love Jimmy. We know it's going to get worked out, at some point, however it gets worked out," said Brees. "It doesn't matter the result of this hearing. When he's here, I know he'll be ready."