Making the decision will be arbitrator Stephen Burbank, a law professor at Penn State, who has twice rejected attempts by the NFL Players Association to challenge the commissioner authority provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Saints hope Burbank does not aspire to be Chief Justice John Roberts and feel he must give something to the other side. If so, he will find for Brees, which would not affect the franchise rules immediately but could have an effect on how much longer Brees sits.
The NFL Players Association, on behalf of board member Brees, argued on May 27 that the number of times a player is franchised is counted from his first tag, no matter how many teams he is with. Brees contends the Saints' tag is his second, since San Diego tagged him once in a previous lifetime. The Saints and the NFL contend that the franchise tag clock is reset when a player goes to another team and is subsequently tagged. Accordingly, the Saints contend that their tag is his first since that is the total number of times he has been tagged by New Orleans. All of this matters because a 20% automatic pay increase is specified for the second tag and a 44% bump for the third tag.
NFL labor rules are at least ten times more confusing than defensive schemes, but it keeps more lawyers in football which presumably leaves fewer available to file spurious lawsuits that might affect you personally. Speaking of lawyers, if Brees wins the grievance, lawyer/agent Tom Condon will quickly do the math and claim it justifies the enormous package he has been demanding for nearly a year. Brees stands to receive a guaranteed $16.4 million this season if he signs the current tender. If the Saints franchise him again, which would be the third time, the tender goes up 44%. That would make his 2013 salary a guaranteed $23.6 million, which gives Brees a two-year total of $40 million guaranteed money. Condon's spreadsheet would argue against signing the Saints' offer, which is said to average around $19.5 per year, when the $20 mil is in your back pocket.
On the other hand, if the Saints and NFL win the grievance, that reduces Brees' leverage. If the Saints franchise him again in 2013, his pay raise would be only 20%, which is $19.7 and a two-year average of about $18 million, far less than the current Saints' offer.
Brees has said he will not miss the season, because he does not want to hurt the team. That suggests he still might sit out training camp, but is that not hurting the team? NFL players have this mindset of invincibility and that they do not need training camp, that they can go out cold and perform at their ultimate level. I beg to differ. Timing between quarterback and receivers is not something you turn on like a light switch. It is developed over hours and hours of practice, usually after the formal practice. A quarterback must throw ball after ball after ball to his receivers to develop timing and rhythm, especially with young receivers like rookie Nick Toon.
If Brees' holdout retards such development, then he hurts the team and his pronouncements of being a team guy are just the ramblings of a delusional man.
My new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and at my website: www.JWMillerSports.com