Before Friday, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had plenty of leverage. Even though he can’t join another team, he can skip the entire offseason program, all of training camp, and all of the preseason, signing the franchise tender and earning the full amount of the offered salary only days before the start of the regular season.
By not signing him to an acceptable long-term deal, the Saints have been banking on Brees not using that leverage.
In the wake of the disclosure that the Saints used a bounty program for three seasons, the franchise and the city will need Brees now more than ever. With multiple suspensions coming of defensive players and coaches, Brees needs to be fully engaged in everything the team is doing as the team prepares to try to win games without, for some finite period of time, coach Sean Payton.
For that very reason, the Saints will be tempted to guess that Brees will now be even more likely to sign the franchise tender and show up for the first day of the offseason program. With the team on the ropes and fans who regard Brees as the greatest player in franchise history (which he is) looking for Brees to provide the same hope that he continuously has given them since arriving six years ago, Brees is less likely to do anything that would undermine his image and legacy.
It would be wrong for the Saints to take advantage of Brees’ nature. But that’s exactly what the Saints have been doing. Now that the city will be even more anxious about Brees’ status, failing to show up could squander a large chunk of his goodwill.
Still, it’s time for the Saints to do the right thing and pay the man who will need to prove right away that his Super Bowl victory and other accomplishments weren’t skewed by the efforts of a defense to inflict injury on its opponents. Don’t be surprised, however, if the Saints try to take full advantage of his own personal desire to prove those points, regardless of what he’s being paid.