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Drew Brees ruling should push Saints to do a deal

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We learned Tuesday from NFL Network's Albert Breer that Drew Brees won his grievance regarding franchise-tag language.

This is clearly good news for Brees, but it's also good news for New Orleans Saints fans. It should help push the Saints closer to finalizing a contract with Brees by July 16. After that date, Brees can only play under the terms of the franchise tag if he doesn't get a new deal.

The news helps to clarify the contractual playing field between the Saints and Brees. It gives some leverage to Brees in contract talks, but fans shouldn't forget that a deal was widely expected even before this development. Brees doesn't want to play under his one-year franchise tag number of $16.37 million. The Saints want Brees locked up. Having a long-term deal signed by mid-July makes too much sense not to happen.

So what does Tuesday's ruling mean?

1. The Saints would have to pay Brees $23.574 million in 2013 (144 percent of his 2012 tag) if they were forced to use the franchise tag on him next year. If you include this year's $16.4 million tag, that would put his two-year total at $39.945 million. That's a lot of money, but not a crazy amount, from the Saints' perspective.

Brees argued that the next franchise tag he's assigned should count as his third because the San Diego Chargers tagged him in 2005. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank agreed.

2. It means that, for now, a player can only be franchise-tagged three times total, regardless of who they played for when they were tagged.

3. It gives Brees and his agent some help in structuring a long-term contract. It doesn't sound as if the Saints and Brees are too far apart in total money. This helps to put the onus on the Saints to include more guaranteed money in the first few years of the deal.

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4. If the Saints don't get a deal done by July 16, Brees would have all sorts of leverage in 2013, provided he isn't injured this season.

What Tuesday's ruling doesn't mean

1. It doesn't mean that Brees suddenly holds a hammer in negotiations. It doesn't change the fact Brees has no interest in playing for "only" $16.37 million this year and risk suffering a career-altering injury without long-term security. He still needs the deal more than the Saints do. That's why it makes so much sense for the deal to happen.

2. It doesn't have far-reaching effects for other NFL players. Only two players in NFL history have received the franchise tag from two different teams. (Brees and former New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals receiver Rob Moore.) This is ultimately a decision that should only matter to Brees.

Tuesday's ruling is just one relatively small factor in a complicated negotiation between the Saints and Brees. With any luck for Saints fans, it will be the factor that helps close a deal.

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