Most ignored my suggestion a couple of weeks ago that down deep he's just another selfish jock, while they wait frantically for news that, like the prodigal, he has come home. The Who Dats should take a Sal Hepatica and loosen up a little. Brees' grievance is not so much the player trying to stick it to the club as it is the NFL Players Association trying to clarify what it considers vague language in the collective bargaining agreement. The current language could be interpreted in such a way that Brees would only be due a 120 percent bump in 2013 because that would be the second time he would have been franchised by the Saints. But Brees and the union contend that his franchise tag with San Diego in 2005 also should count in the equation. If the arbitrator agrees and the Saints franchise him again next year, he would have been franchised three times total, thereby triggering the higher 144 percent bump.
Even with my winless record of predicting Brees' thought patterns, I do not believe this grievance has a direct impact on whether or not he ever will reach an agreement with the Saints. At least four events would have to occur for this grievance to have any impact at all. First, arbitrator Stephen Burbank would have to concur with the union and Brees that franchise tags are cumulative, no matter how many teams apply them to a player. Burbank is the same arbitrator who has upheld Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to levy fines and suspensions for Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove and the rest. Second, negotiations on a long-term deal would have to break down completely before the July 16 deadline, which would not be a surprise. Third, Brees would have to sign the one-year Saints tender for 2012 that he says he will not do. And fourth, the Saints would have to franchise him next year. In the meantime, your most visible player, the face of the organization and the only man who can take the sting out of Sean Payton's suspension becomes himself a flash point of unrest and disunity.
I doubt that all four of those bad things will happen. However, if the arbitrator does uphold the grievance, that could embolden the Brees camp for this reason: He stands to receive about $16.4 million this season if he signs the tender. If the Saints franchise him again, the tender goes up 144% which makes his 2013 salary nearly $24 million. Add the two years together and you get an average salary of just over $20 million, which is close to the average that agent Tom Condon is seeking in a long-term deal. Of course, numbers like that play havoc with the salary cap, especially in the second year, so it is in the club's best interest to reach a long-term deal that would give them more flexibility to keep the core players together.
I believe Brees' grievance was prompted by the Players Association, which saw an opportunity to clarify a vaguely written provision. That would help the next player who faces a similar situations in the future. And to the Who Dats, I say "Relax! It will get done."
My new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and at my website: www.JWMillerSports.com