With nine days to go until the window closes on the ability of the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees to do a long-term deal, it’s widely believed that, after July 16, Brees’ only option will be to accept the $16.371 million franchise tender for 2012.
The truth is that Brees would still have flexibility, and thus leverage. He could insist, as players like Bears linebacker Lance Briggs and former Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth have done in the past, on triggers that would prevent the Saints from using the franchise tag again in 2013. Or Brees could simply ask for more than $16.371 million for 2012. Or both.
As to the first option, it arguably makes more sense for Brees to sit tight on what would be (thanks to arbitrator Stephen Burbank) a $23.57 million salary and cap number for 2013. With the salary cap expected to be flat, it would be impractical for the Saints to devote nearly 20 percent of it to one player, even if that one player is Drew Brees.
And so the July 3 ruling from Burbank has backed the Saints into a corner. With the Saints finalizing during the past week all but one of their rookie deals, it looks like the front office has cleared the way for G.M. Mickey Loomis to focus exclusively on working out a long-term contract for Drew Brees before Monday, July 16 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
The clock has been ticking for months. In nine days, it strikes zero for the Saints. If they want to ensure keeping Brees beyond 2012, the time has come to figure out how to close the gap that still exists between what the player wants and what the team wants to pay.