The NFL Players Association's interpretation of language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement could give New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees considerable leverage in talks towards a long-term extension, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.
In March, Brees received the "exclusive" franchise tender which prohibited him from negotiating will other clubs and will be worth $16.371 million in fully guaranteed base salary for the 2012 season.
Brees has not yet signed the tender and recently expressed his frustration at a lack of progress and communication with Saints management. According to Cole, the two sides are "far apart" in talks, which could lead to the Saints using the franchise tag on Brees again next offseason.
That's where the interpretation of two sections of Article 10 in the CBA come into play. Section 1 reads that "Except as set forth in Section 9 below, each Club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent as a Franchise Player each season during the term of this Agreement.".
Meanwhile, Section 2(b) of the 2011 CBA reads "Any Club that designates a player as a Franchise Player for the third time shall, on the date the third such designation is made, be deemed to have tendered the player a one-year NFL Player Contract for the greater of: (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below) with the highest such average; (B) 120% of the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below) at which the player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year; or (C) 144% of his Prior Year Salary."
The Saints would consider 2013 as the second time they will have designated Brees as their franchise player, which would require a tender worth 120 percent of his previous year's salary, or $19.645 million. Cole adds that the Saints have been using that interpretation of the CBA and franchise tag formula in their negotiations with Brees. Since Brees played the 2005 season under the franchise tag while a member of the San Diego Chargers, his agent, Tom Condon of CAA Football, and the NFLPA would argue that 2013 would be the third time in his career where Brees will have been designated a franchise player, and therefore requires a tender at 144 percent of his previous year's salary, or $23.574 million.
Either way, both sides acknowledge that Brees is under the Saints' control for the next two seasons and are trying to gain leverage. Under the NFLPA's interpretation of the CBA language, Brees' camp would currently be looking to negotiate off a two-year guaranteed floor of $39.945 million (the cost of both franchise tenders under their formula) and a clear path to free agency in 2014, while the Saints' formula puts the two-year tender amount at $36.016 million while retaining the possibility of a "third tender" (worth a jaw-dropping $28.289 million) in 2014.
I'm not a lawyer, so take this for what it's worth, but my interpretation of the language in the CBA is that a team can designate one of its unrestricted free agents as a Franchise Player three times. So on that issue, I think the Saints are correct. That said, it's ridiculous that the Brees negotiations have dragged on for this long.
In 95 regular season games since arriving in New Orleans in 2006, Brees has passed for 28,394 yards with 201 touchdowns and 93 interceptions. The Saints have won 62 of those 95 starts and are 5-3 in eight playoff games, including a win in the franchise's first and only Super Bowl appearance. Brees hasn't missed a game due to injury, he's an active and valuable member of the community and, after turning 33 in January, is the same age New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was when he signed a four-year, $72-million contract in 2010.
My suggestion: Five years, $100 million, $60 million in guarantees with $70 million over the first three seasons. And I'll only take a 1 percent commission on that.