|This is Drew Brees' 'Wait, you really did franchise me?!' face. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
There were reports last week that the Saints and franchise quarterback Drew Brees were about $5 million per year apart on a new contract. General manager Mickey Loomis, who according to a Yahoo story thought of Brees as "very good" but not great, later told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that “I have always thought of Drew as a great player. Always."
Then news broke that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was involved in a "pay for performance" bounty program, head coach Sean Payton and Loomis knew about it, and the Brees situation suddenly seemed less important. But the franchise tag waits for no man; scandals or not, the Saints had until 4 p.m. ET Monday to work out a new deal with Brees, franchise him, or let him hit the open market. New Orleans opted for the franchise tag and Brees isn't happy about it.
Details via CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Larry Holder:
"Brees is 'livid' about being … tagged and not receiving a long-term contract, according to WIST-AM in New Orleans. The radio station cites sources in the Brees camp that he will not sign the franchise tag deal. Brees and the Saints have until July 15 to hammer out a long-term deal. If a deal isn't struck, Brees must sign the franchise tag deal or hold out. "
It's rare that holding out is in the player's best interests; in general, the team has all the power but this could be a case where Brees is in a position to get exactly what he wants (and maybe more). Exacerbating matters for the Saints: the possible league sanctions the organization could face in light of the bounty program. If players are suspended and draft picks forfeited, New Orleans will need Brees more than ever. (It gets worse: two of the Saints' best offensive players, Carl Nicks and Marques Colston, are headed for free agency.)
Under the franchise tag that Brees reportedly has no intentions of signing, he's scheduled to make $15 million. In theory, the two sides have until July 16 to bang out a long-term contract but if Brees really is "livid" he may be in no mood to negotiate. Never mind the impending sanctions Roger Goodell might have in store for New Orleans, if Brees isn't the quarterback, the 2012 Saints will look a lot like the 2011 Colts. (Upside: they'll be perfectly positioned for a run at Matt Barkley!)
In the meantime, we'll reiterate what CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote last week: "What the hell are the Saints doing? I've said this before. There are certain players, only a handful, where you open the vault and roll out the cash. You give them a blank check. Brees is one of those players. Franchising Brees is going to anger him, no question. Players despise the tag because it limits their earning potential. So you've ticked off your best player. For what? Why?"
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