The ongoing drama between Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints continues to be ... well, ongoing. Less than two weeks after he won an appeal that made it virtually financially impossible for the Saints to place the franchise tag on him in 2013, it was made known that the two parties are still far apart on the guaranteed numbers Brees would receive in a new contract.
According to the Associated Press, Brees wants as much as $10 million more in guaranteed money than the Saints are willing to give at this point. Brees will make $16.371 million based on the 2012 franchise tag, the second of his career according to the appeal, the verdict of which ruled that his 2005 tag with the San Diego Chargers counted with his new team as well. Reports indicate that Brees wants $20.5 million per year, while the Saints' latest offer comes in at $19.5 million. The difference over the life of a five-year contract, which both sides have seemed to settle on, is about $10 million in total.
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Brees has raised the possibility that he won't report to training camp if he doesn't have a long-term deal in place, and the Saints' deadline to make that happen is Monday. Due to the salary cap rules in the new CBA, the Saints would then be playing with fire with Brees' future. Should both sides fail to reach an agreement in 2013, the Saints would either have to re-tag Brees and pay over $23 million for the privilege or watch the greatest player in franchise history walk out the door.
Brees' involvement in training camp in 2012 will be more important than it has been since he and head coach Sean Payton first joined forces in New Orleans in 2006. Since Payton will serve a season-long suspension for his role in the bounty scandal, Brees will be in charge of the offense and the exceptional chemistry between quarterback and coach will not be seen in the 2012 season.
And if the Saints aren't careful, it may never be seen again.
In 2006, Brees signed a six-year, $60 million contract. He was coming off a shoulder injury in 2005, and wound up signing a deal that was far below market value for elite players at his position, especially in his last few seasons. In 2011, Brees broke Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record, and he's been one of the best in the game, mentioned constantly with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers over the last half-decade. He has led the NFL in completion percentage in each of the last three seasons, led the league in passing yards three different times since he came to New Orleans, led the league in pass completions three times since 2007, and has helped his offensive line with a series of preposterously low sack rates despite offensive lines that have cycled through personnel since his arrival in New Orleans.
Brady signed a five-year, $78.5 million contract in 2010, with $48.5 million guaranteed. Rodgers signed a six-year, $65 million deal in 2008, though he's going to break the bank and possibly double that if he keeps playing like he has been. Manning, who didn't even play in 2011 due to neck and shoulder issues, signed a five-year, $96 million deal with the Denver Broncos this offseason, and reportedly turned down $25 million per year from Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams.
So, the Saints have just a few days to make a crucial decision for a franchise that has seen more than its share of drama this offseason. Either throw the money down for the only star of the show who did his time in NOLA the right way since 2006, or start preparing for the Chase Daniel era.
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