The NFLPA understandably has declared victory in the wake of the ruling from arbitrator Stephen Burbank regarding the Saints’ hypothetical application of the franchise tag to quarterback Drew Brees in 2013. But there’s nothing hypothetical about the impact of the decision on Brees’ contract negotiations.
By stacking the 2005 franchise tag placed on Brees by the Chargers with the 2012 franchise tag placed on Brees by the Saints, Brees would be tagged a third time in 2013, entitling him to a 144-percent raise over his 2012 salary.
It means that Brees would receive $23.574 million in 2013, nearly $4 million more than the Saints believed he would be owed.
Plenty of folks in the media already are shrugging at the ruling, claiming that the inevitable long-term deal between Brees and the Saints will make his franchise tender come 2013 irrelevant. But here’s the point so many are missing: Brees now is in line to earn nearly $40 million over the next two years under the franchise tag.
And so Brees now has a hammer in the long-term negotiations, and Brees surely will use it. Agent Tom Condon will argue that Brees should receive for the next two years at least the full amount of the two franchise tags.
The Saints may balk at guaranteeing the 2012 and 2013 franchise tenders now, given that Brees would have to finish 2012 with his health and proverbial fastball. The Saints are more likely to resist if the quarterback’s revised offer exceeds the amount of Brees’ pre-ruling demand.
If the ruling causes the gap to grow, the Saints may decide to let the current one-year tag ride, continuing a game of franchise tender chicken that could prompt Brees to boycott all of training camp and the preseason before showing up and getting his fully-guaranteed $16.371 million, knowing that in 2013 he’ll either receive $23.574 million or hit the open market.
So while it remains the reasonable view that the Saints and Brees will get a long-term deal done, the reasonable view has been consistently incorrect for nearly a year. Don’t be shocked if Tuesday’s ruling continues a string of unexpected developments on a deal that should have been done a long time ago.