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Graham has three years to challenge his franchise-tag designation


The more I know about the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the more I realize there’s plenty more to know that I don’t already, you know, know.

The lengthy document creates multiple avenues for resolving disputes. The primary three are: (1) injury grievances; (2) non-injury grievances; and (3) system arbitrations. Each device has a different deadline for proceeding. For injury grievances, the player has 25 days from termination of his contract. For non-injury grievances, the player has fifty days. For system arbitrations, the player has a whopping three years.

And I did not know that.

Certain specific provisions of the CBA fall under system arbitration. One of them is Article 10, which sets forth the rules regarding the franchise tag. Thus, if/when a player disagrees with the specific type of franchise tag applied to him, he has not 50 days but a whopping three years to do something about it.

As a result, Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis is right. April 22 is irrelevant. The key date becomes March 3, 2017.

Of course, Graham can file the grievance whenever he wants. Maybe he’ll do it on April 22. Maybe he’ll do it on May 22. Maybe he’ll do it right now. (He supposedly was going to do it “immediately.”)

It’s clear that Graham doesn’t want to unnecessarily inflame the situation by forcing the player and the team to assume battle stations over whether his snaps taken in the slot should be treated as snaps taken as a receiver or as a tight end. At some point, however, he’ll come off as weak and uncertain regarding his position. For now, he’s avoiding the possibility of a backlash from Saints fans who may not like the fact that he’s trying to blow up the team’s cap situation, that he thinks he’s not a tight end, and that $7 million for 2014 somehow isn’t enough.

It could be that Graham is giving the Saints until July 15, the deadline for signing a franchise player to a multi-year deal, to give him the contract he wants. If they don’t, then he’d presumably file the grievance, claiming he’s actually a receiver.

It’s a $5.2 million question. But Graham won’t actually lose any money until Week One, when he gets his first paycheck under the one-year franchise tag. For now, then, there’s no hurry to get the question resolved.