The last bit of leverage toward a long-term deal for Saints quarterback Drew Brees will soon be decided — unless the uncertainty nudges the team and the player to work out a compromise before arbitrator Stephen Burbank rules on what amounts to a $3.92 million question.
Steve Wyche of NFL Network reports that Burbank is expected to determine within a week whether Brees’ franchise tender in 2013 would be $19.645 million or $23.574 million.
The issue turns on whether the Chargers’ use of the franchise tag on Brees in 2005 counts toward determining the number of times the franchise tag has been used on Brees. If it does, he gets $23.574 million in 2013, which is 144 percent of his $16.371 million franchise tender in 2012. If it doesn’t, he gets $19.645 million in 2013, or 120 percent of his 2012 tender.
The outcome is highly relevant to the value of the long-term deal, given the expected magnitude of Brees’ 2013 franchise tender. But the league’s best argument may be that the question isn’t ripe, because Brees is still eight months away from being slapped with the franchise tag in 2013.
If Burbank decides that it’s not premature to consider the value of the franchise tender in 2013, the outcome hinges on a technical interpretation of the language of the CBA. In the end, Burbank must decide whether the labor deal contemplates that prior use of the franchise tag by a different team on the same player will count when a subsequent team uses the franchise tag.
The correct argument seems to be that the prior use of the franchise tag by the Chargers doesn’t matter. But it could go either way.
And that’s all the more reason why the two parties should try to work out a long-term contract before seeing nearly $4 million in leverage swing to the other side.