Brees, New Orleans Saints contract talks tied, as fans tire

brees-panthersCountdown: The New Orleans Saints-Drew Brees contract dispute has now passed the two-minute warning with both sides tied, slugging it out.

Unfortunately for Saints fans, there is no sudden death in this game.   Either it is a stalemate and nothing gets done or one side plows through the line or throws a bomb--bomb as in a long pass, not the explosive type.

One week to go. Tick, tock.

If a deal isn't reached by then, it is believed Brees' only option will be to accept the $16.371 million franchise tender for 2012. But the truth is that Brees would still have flexibility, and thus leverage. He could insist on triggers that would prevent the Saints from using the franchise tag again in 2013 or the quarterback could simply ask for more than the $16.371 million for 2012, or both.

As PFT.com points out, 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 per cent of it to one player, even that one player is Brees.

PFT.com reports: "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 GM Mickey Loomis to focus exclusively on working out a long-term contract with Brees before the July 16 deadline.

"The clock has been ticking for months. In seven 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."

Franchise Tag

The franchise tag was created in the early 1990s to give teams the luxury of keeping their most important players. When it was created, the NFLPA thought it would be used by teams to keep their quarterbacks. Once general managers got their hands on it, they used the threat of the tag on all positions in order to get favorable long-term deals, knowing most players wouldn't want to accept one-year deals based on the average salary of the top five players at a position.

So far this year, only 7 of the 21 franchises players have signed long-term deals. That means 14 tagged players are eating up $107.61 million cap room. If no deals are done by July 16, those cap dollars are gone unable to be carried over to next season. Even worse, the franchise players -- excluding Brees -- not signed to long-term deals will get 20 per cent raises if they are franchised again. Brees, if he's franchised a third time, will get a whopping 44 per cent raise.

SOME HITHER, others yon: Mike Freeman of CBSsports.com, who seldom writes anything positive about the Saints, believes Jon Vilma's legal strategy is actually brilliant. Writes Freeman: "Jon Vilma has filed another lawsuit against the NFL. That's suit No. 412, I believe, Pretty soon the Louisiana court is going to have a bounty put on him. But what Vilma is doing, in many ways, is actually brilliant."

Freeman notes that Vilma's latest suit is fairly explosive stuff. He says the documents the Saints players have viewed less than one per cent of the NFL's evidence. He claims the handwritten notes are altered and says those notes were created by former Saints assistant coach Mike Curello, a name Freeman has heard many times before, a name Saints players have long maintained is the crux of the NFL's case.

Freeman concludes: "Vilma notes Curello was fired by the Saints, is a bitter employee and his notes are false. Most explosive Vilma maintains Curello has retracted his claims. Just throw a lot of crap out there and see what happens. Again, smart. Will it work? It's already working. Vilma got some pretty bombastic things out onto the fancy Intranet-a-sphere. That's all he wanted all along."

Now that we're the middle on ongoing bounty lawsuits, I miss the good old days when players were busted at strip clubs...The website Bleacher Report ranks the Saints No. 13 on a list of 32 teams in its offseason power poll...Fans of New Orleans will welcome the Hornets' Eric Gordon with open arms this season, They want to embrace him, and all he has to do is open his arms and embrace them back. It's that simple, put the business behind and move on...

The NFL game tickets are rising and attendance has dropped every year since 2007. Despite the unprecedented growth of TV audiences, in 2011 the NFL posted the lowest paid attendance since the league expanded to 32 games in 2002. That year, `6,883,31 paying customers attended 256 regular-season games. The number climbed over the next five years, maxing out at 17,345,205 in 2007. Last season, 16,562,706 was lower than prior year of 16,569,514. That translates to an average paid crowd of 64.698. The Saints lead the league in paid attendance while the league attendance is experiencing a troubling downward trend. Box seats for Saints games at Tulane Stadium in 1967 were $6...

The window is closing on the ability of the Saints and Drew Brees to agree to a long-term deal by July 16.

Bleacher Report has compiled a list of "The Worst Head Coaches in Every NFL Team's History." Mike Ditka is the Saints coach selected. Years: 1997-99. Best Season: 6-10 (1997). Worst Season: 3-13 (1999). "Trading away an entire draft class is part of Ditka's terrible legacy, as is the record. But because he was brought in with so much fanfare and for so much money, yet he never even sniffed a winning season, let alone a playoff appearance. Ditka's stay in the Bayou was a total disaster.

"There are probably a handful of valid excuses as to why Ditka couldn't win in New Orleans: The games had passed him by, he didn't have the talent, his act didn't work on the newer, free-agency generation. but whatever the reason, the hire was one of the worst of its era."

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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