If/when the Saints apply the franchise tag to tight end Jimmy Graham and if/when (when) Graham instantly challenges the notion that he’s a tight end, the pin will be pulled on a grenade with shrapnel that can fly in many different directions.

Ultimately, the outcome could be that Graham is an unrestricted free agent.

The labor deal, which establishes the rules for applying the franchise tag, doesn’t address the consequences for erroneous use of it. It means that the third-party charged with resolving the dispute would have to determine the specific outcome.

The Saints surely would assume they’d be able to instantly adjust the franchise tender from tight end to receiver, if the grievance results in a finding that the strict letter of the labor deal will be applied as written, with a raw count of snaps determining Graham lined up more as a receiver than as a tight end.

But what if Graham argues that the inappropriate tender should simply be rejected? If the window for applying the tag has closed, then the Saints wouldn’t be able to reissue the tag to Graham as a receiver. Graham would then become an unrestricted free agent.

For that reason alone, it could make sense for the Saints to apply the franchise tag now, with both player and team seeking an expedited ruling on the issue so that the Saints could have a pre-March 3 Mulligan if Graham wins.