Last year at this time, there was plenty of talk regarding the question of whether two of the league’s top quarterbacks — Tom Brady and Peyton Manning — would get new contracts before their respective deals expired after the 2010 season. Brady did and, to date, Manning hasn’t.
This year, due primarily to another contract that applies to all players, another franchise quarterback whose contract will expire after the 2011 season isn’t getting as much attention. Eventually, however, the status of Drew Brees will get plenty of notice.
Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes in a mailbag column that Brees’ contract won’t be addressed until Manning sets the ceiling with a financial package that likely will be the biggest ever given to any NFL player, despite Peyton’s age, his recent history of injuries, and the return of a salary cap. (Indeed, Manning didn’t flinch when taking top dollar several years ago, and it’ll once again be for the franchise to figure out how to put enough good players around him with whatever cap space Peyton doesn’t pocket.) The fact that Manning and Brees both are represented by agent Tom Condon makes that approach even more likely.
Though Brees won’t get as much as Manning, the more Manning gets, the better for Brees. Especially if the Saints end up using the franchise tag on Brees, since at that point Manning’s 2011 cap number (or, if the Saints use the exclusive version of the tag, Manning’s 2012 cap number) will provide one-fifth of the formula used to determine Brees’ base salary for 2012.
Then there’s the issue we recently raised regarding the settlement of the Tom Brady antitrust lawsuit. In 1993, Reggie White and the rest of the named plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit that delivered true (almost) free agency received an extra bonus — the franchise tag could never be used on them. If that happens this time around (and that’s unlikely, but still possible), Brees will have considerably more leverage, especially since the ceiling set by Manning likely will be even higher.