The NFLPA sent a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league to monitor the Saints' talks with Brees. While Brees said Tuesday he's confident the two sides are nearing agreement and that only "little things" stood in the way of a long-term deal, the pace of the negotiations hasn't been what he and agent Tom Condon might have liked. Brees and the Saints face a July 16 deadline to reach a new accord, or he'll play the season for the $16.371 million franchise tender. The NFLPA is also representing Brees on Wednesday in a franchise tag grievance to be heard by Special Master Stephen Burbank. The question is the value of the 2013 franchise tag; the NFLPA's position is he'll be owed a 44-percent raise up to $23.785 million if he's again named the franchise player. While Brees is a three-time franchise player, only two of the instances came with the Saints. The other, in 2005, was his final season with the Chargers. If Burbank sides with the Saints and doesn't count the season in San Diego, Brees would be owed a 20-percent raise up to about $19.595 million. CBSSports.com first reported the letter sent to Goodell and the NFLPA's next step -- assuming a deal isn't reached before the mid-July cutoff -- of presenting a case to the National Labor Relations Board. According to the CBSSports.com report, the NFL has been asked specifically to investigate if the Saints are in violation of Article 49, Section 1 of the collective bargaining agreement stating "No Discrimination: There shall be no discrimination in any form against any player by the NFL, the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA." Brees hasn't participated in offseason workouts or minicamp and will not commit to attending training camp until his contract status is resolved. He said there was "no chance" he'd skip the regular season and told ESPN Radio on Tuesday that he's "very confident" a contract will get done before mid-July. Brees' camp was asking for an annual salary average of $23 million over at least five seasons in May. The Saints were offering closer to an average of $18 million for five years, which would match the five-year, $90 million contract Peyton Manning signed with the Colts in July 2011. Manning, of course, was released and signed a more lucrative deal with the Broncos in March (five years, $96 million). The likelihood of Manning, 36, completing the deal in Denver is remote. --Two weeks ago, Bears coach Lovie Smith said he fully expected Brian Urlacher to be on the field when training camp begins in Bourbonnais on July 25. Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune he'll be back "for sure" after missing offseason workouts and minicamp recovering from a sprained MCL and PCL in his left knee on Jan. 2 at Minnesota. "I could have participated in minicamp, but there was no reason to," Urlacher said. Urlacher, 34, likely won't practice more than three straight days and will be rested on days with dual practice. Smith is typically player-friendly when it comes to monitoring and adjusting the team's overall camp schedule. The Bears signed Geno Hayes, who started in Tampa Bay and is comfortable in multiple spots in the Cover-2 defense, but depth could be an issue with Urlacher and Pro Bowl weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs returning as the team's top two tacklers. An injury to either player would be damaging to a defense with several standouts -- defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Charles Tillman included -- over the age of 30. --Robert Griffin III was just like the rest of the pundits, who equated need to desire and projected the Cleveland Browns would find the means necessary to move up and draft the Baylor quarterback. "Once I declared for the draft, Cleveland was a place I thought I would be," Griffin said. "Just because they had the most firepower when it came to draft picks and tradability." That didn't happen, of course, with the Browns ultimately being outbid by the Washington Redskins. Washington dealt the sixth pick in the first round, its second-round pick and two future first-rounders to land the player coach Mike Shanahan believes to be a franchise-lifting passer. Griffin spoke at the NFL rookie symposium this week in Ohio, in addition to participating with the incoming draft class, and spoke about the recent extortion attempt. A former Baylor basketball walk-on allegedly threatened Griffin's agent, Ben Dogra, that he would release negative information about Griffin if he wasn't paid a large sum of money. "There's vultures out there, people looking to climb on top of all your money," he said. --It's not yet a touchdown, but Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana is again moving things downfield for yet another big score in his fabled career. No, Montana has not donned his old San Francisco 49ers jersey or laced up his spikes again. Rather, Montana the now-retired quarterback is now Montana the successful businessman and investor. And like he would set his sights on getting the football into the end zone so many times during his fabled career, Montana is moving towards building a four- or five-star hotel directly across from the 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., which is due to be completed in 2014. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Montana on Tuesday night earned exclusive negotiating rights from the Santa Clara city council to build the hotel on eight acres of city-owned land. His investment firm will have to pay the city a substantial amount of money -- still not made public -- to not only build on the land, but also ongoing payments once the so-called "upscale" hotel is complete and open for business for the 2014 NFL season. The negotiation period is good for one year, but Montana hopes to have the deal done much sooner so as to break ground and complete the hotel at the same time the new stadium is completed. The new hotel will include a sports bar, restaurant and "additional entertainment uses" according to the Mercury News. "This is a no-brainer," said Councilman Kevin Moore. The council voted 4-2 to begin negotiations with Montana's group immediately.
- New Orleans Saints
- Brian Urlacher