Daily Special, July 10, 2012
9 Posted on July 10th, 2012 by Himself
Nervous yet? Dave is. Mike is. I am.
Over at Canal Street Chronicles, Drew Brees is slowly evaporating. Dave has started a prediction contest: when will Drew sign a long-term contract? Will he sign a long-term contract? The angst is beginning to seep through my monitor.
Mike Florio, likewise, is beginning to prepare the way for the end times. He pointed out earlier that Brees will still have options after July 16 if he doesn’t sign; yesterday, he reported that the “buzz” is building that Brees will play under the franchise tag.
The smart money continues to ride on the situation being resolved. But the smart money hasn’t been right yet on this one…
And me? Earlier, I regarded it as a good sign that we haven’t heard anything out of either camp. As the deadline creeps closer, you’d figure someone would take to negotiating through the media, wouldn’t you? But now it’s beginning to seem too quiet. I wonder if we’re not witnessing a stare-down. I think we can feel confident of one thing: Drew Brees ain’t gonna blink. It might take a boycott of Jimmy John’s to make him rethink his position, because this man has some serious financial alternatives. He’s not going to starve, lose his house, or be forced to rent himself out on Bourbon Street if he doesn’t play this season.
But there is another possibility that I haven’t seen discussed yet. Saints management obviously knows by now what they can afford to give Drew—as things stand now. There’s an offer on the table, and it’s a good one: it makes Drew the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL. But it might be (how?) that it’s not good enough. Maybe Drew wants more. Maybe he wants more guaranteed. Maybe he wants more up front. Maybe he wants more deferred. Who knows? But if it’s going to cost the Saints more money than they’ve already offered, and if the Saints are inclined to blink, it all comes down to one thing.
As things stand now, the Saints are so hard up against the ceiling of the salary cap they’ve got plaster in their hair. There is no more upward mobility: they have to lower the floor. And that means ditching a contract.
It’s not as simple as just matching up numbers and kicking to the curb whoever is making what Brees is asking for. There are penalties under the cap for cutting a player who was given a large, pro-rated bonus, so it’s entirely possible that it costs you more to cut a player than to keep him. Also, take into account that whole “who do we need” thing. You can’t just point and click.
Except in one case: Jonathan Vilma. Larry Holder gave an interview to WWL in which he speculated that Vilma has played his last game with the Saints. He’s suspended for a year; and the team already has signed his replacement, Curtis Lofton, and for big money at that. There are compelling reasons to believe that Vilma won’t be back. So why are they waiting to cut him?
The team was supposed to receive about $2 million in cap relief due to the suspensions of Vilma and Will Smith, and that should have happened as soon as Goodell ruled on their appeals. Has it? Don’t know; I haven’t heard. Maybe someone out there can point me to an article on this, but until that happens I’m assuming the cap relief is still on hold due to the upcoming player lawsuits and the possibility of a successful injunction against the suspensions.
It might be nothing other than Saints management not wanting to come off like a bunch of dicks for stepping on Vilma while he’s down. Or—who knows?—maybe they really do want the man back. Maybe they think he can win his case. But if they need extra room in order to sign Brees, there isn’t a better candidate for the ax. I hope that if it happens, fans realize that while we couldn’t have won the Super Bowl without Drew Brees, we wouldn’t have done so without Jonathan Vilma, either. It will be a sad day.
But all the angst might be for nothing. Mike Triplett ain’t buying into it. Of all the people covering this already overlong controversy, Triplett has been the one voice all along saying “Ah, come off it.” And he’s been right. Every rumor, every speculation, every pronouncement by what Mike Florio terms “the smart money” has been off. Triplett, all along, has insisted that the deal will get done somewhere near the deadline, and that Drew Brees will become the highest-paid player in the league. It hasn’t happened yet, so it might be simply that Triplett hasn’t yet had his opportunity to be more wrong than anyone. But for what it’s worth, I think he’s right.
It would be unthinkable for Brees to turn down something like $96 million because he wants $100 million, when the alternative is a one-year, $16.4 million deal under the franchise tag—and all the uncertainty and unhappiness that would come along with it.
I believe the deal will get done. It might get done today, who knows? But I will admit, I’m getting nervous. And not just for Drew.