The Saints and Drew Brees may be inching toward Threat Level Midnight.
Nearly eight weeks since the team’s season ended and five days from the start of free agency, the two sides have yet to negotiate a new deal. Far more ominously, there’s no news about talks or terms or progress being made.
At last report, the two sides planned to meet and talk parameters last week in Indianapolis. Those discussions occurred amid statements of high confidence from coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis that a deal will be done. But those discussions have led to no concrete signs that a deal is coming.
The latest twist comes from the reminder that, because Brees has a contract that doesn’t void until March 14, he doesn’t enjoy the same right that other looming free agents will have to negotiate, via their agents, with other teams during the two-day window that opens on Monday. Although the report was attributed to an NFLPA spokesman (the only NFLPA spokesman is George Atallah), the fact that it came from a reporter covering the Saints invites speculation as to whether the Saints’ fingerprints appear anywhere on the leakage of that specific nugget.
Reporters get antsy when people speculate on sources, so I won’t. But I will say this: It wouldn’t be the first time that an entity with an agenda handed a scoop to a reporter with a specific request that the sourcing be phrased in a way to completely cover the tracks of the entity with an agenda.
As the Saints and Brees continue their awkward dance toward a potential divorce (and until the deal is done a divorce can indeed happen), the Saints can’t afford to be perceived as doing anything that would seem to be aggressive or disrespectful toward Brees. Leaking what amounts to a warning to other teams that they can’t negotiate with Brees during the 48-hour negotiating window easily could be perceived as that sort of gesture.
Ultimately, the warning is meaningless. Agent Tom Condon will know (if he doesn’t already) what another team will pay Brees if he makes it to the open market. While this admonition may keep a team like the Vikings or Broncos from accidentally tampering with Brees as of Monday, it won’t stop any team that is interested in Brees from making that interest known, or from making the magnitude of any offer that would be made to him clear.
The simple fact that the news on Thursday, March 8 was that Brees can’t formally negotiate with other teams until Wednesday, March 14 and not that Brees and the Saints have a deal in place underscores the reality that the chances of Brees leaving New Orleans, no matter how small they may have been, are now at least a little bit bigger.
UPDATE 12:26 p.m. ET: The report from the New Orleans Advocate regarding Brees’ status was inaccurate. Both the NFL and NFLPA have informed PFT that Brees can negotiate with other teams as of Monday.