Daily Special, May 26, 2012
22 Posted on May 26th, 2012 by Himself
This just in: the AngryWhoDat is now also damned.
Or will be, anyway. He admits it himself. He’s even proud of it.
Well…he should be. He didn’t discover the fire, but he sniffed out the smoke before anyone. On Thursday, he posted his suspicions on Canal Street Chronicles: something screwy was up with the Drew Brees negotiations. All this delay and rancor could not possibly be a simple argument over salary levels.
And apparently, it wasn’t. This isn’t confirmed fact yet; but it’s so damn plausible—it even accounts for the reported gap between the parties—that I’m convinced we now know what’s holding up the signing party.
Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports broke the story. Essentially, it’s this: a franchised player is due a salary determined by a formula known to both sides, so any front office can use that number as a baseline in negotiations. And that number goes up the more the player has been franchised. But Brees’ agent, Tom Condon, is arguing that the franchise tag placed on Brees in San Diego in 2005 still counts—in other words, this is Drew’s second tag, not his first. More to the point, if the Saints tag him again next year, that would be his third, and his salary would automatically skyrocket well beyond the point that Mickey has been assuming in negotiations.
Who’s right? Ehhhhh…that’s a tough one. I don’t believe for a minute that the NFL intended to make one team’s action count against another team in future negotiations. The whole point was this: “We’ll throw this sop to the union, because we can: no team would be so boneheaded as to franchise a guy three times.” Well, no: but Brees is that rare example, an elite player with a two-team resume. Besides, all that matters is what the CBA actually states: either side is perfectly free to whine “But that’s not what we meant!”—so long as they pay up.
Bear in mind: this is all about the baseline for negotiation. The Saints aren’t necessarily planning to franchise Brees again next year; but they know they shouldn’t pay him any more than what he would make if they did. So that’s their offer. What Condon and Brees are saying is, “Look, you’re going to have to pay us under the tag more than you thought, so bump up your offer.” And that’s something the Saints are reluctant to do until someone rules on what the language in the CBA actually means.
One thing that’s not clear: who decides? Cole has this to say:
The issue then comes down to interpreting the language of the CBA. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello would not clarify how the NFL Management Council views the situation. If the council interprets Brees’ franchise tag with the Chargers not being governed by the current CBA, the union would have to prove otherwise.
Prove to whom? Would they appeal to the commissioner? Argue before a mediator? Take it to court? Just how long is this going to go on?
Me, I’m convinced the ultimate goal here is the elimination of the franchise tag. The players hate it; Drew Brees, in particular, hates it (having been injured and forced from San Diego while playing under the tag instead of a long-term contract), and tried to get himself exempted during the course of the players’ suit during last season’s lockout. That ploy didn’t work; but making the tag too expensive to use might be a winning strategy. Eventually, the NFL will just give up and stop using it. Maybe. It’s worth a shot, anyway…especially if there’s several million dollars in it for Brees personally.
And frankly, I’m beginning to change my view that Brees will have to eventually give in and sign the tender. I mean, he’ll be 33 years old, his window is closing, and this is $16 million, after all. If he sits out, he gets nothing, and loses a year…and let’s face it: career-wise, Drew is on the downslope (I mean in time, not in skill). He gains nothing by not coming back, and loses a lot.
But he’s also a stand-up guy. He’s said all along he would not sign the tender…and now, maybe, we know why. It’s because he’s trying to drive a stake through the heart of the franchise tag. To Brees, this may be more important than a salary that you or I might literally kill for—even more important than another Lombardi, which I know you and I would literally kill for. He may see it as his legacy, his gift to the brotherhood of NFL players. And if that’s the case, he won’t budge. He really will sit out. That sound you just heard was either my ass puckering, or yours.