Saints use exclusive-rights franchise tag on QB Brees

The New Orleans Saints used their franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees, the team announced Saturday.

Brees was designated an exclusive-rights franchise player, which prevents him from having the ability to negotiate with other teams and secures him as the Saints' quarterback for the 2012 season.

The formula for the exclusive-rights tag is the same as it was in the old collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players, meaning Brees is scheduled to earn the average of the top five quarterback salaries in 2012. For that reason, Brees' exact salary won't be calculated until the free-agency period is over this summer.

Right now, the franchise figure for quarterbacks in 2012 stands at between $16 million and $17 million, but that likely will be affected by what happens with any potential Peyton Manning deal.

The Saints' decision to use their tag on Brees adds another twist to what has been a surprisingly contentious round of negotiations between the team and its quarterback, who broke Dan Marino's NFL single-season passing record two months ago and led New Orleans to its only Super Bowl championship two years ago.

NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported earlier this week that frustration had built with Brees, and that the team planned to use the franchise tag on the 33-year-old barring a late development, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. cited a league source Friday in reporting that Brees and his agent, Tom Condon, had turned down an offer that would have made the quarterback the highest-paid player in the NFL.

Meanwhile, free-agent guard Carl Nicks was happy he didn't receive the franchise tag and still hoped to re-sign with the Saints, according to The Times-Picayune.

"Now I kinda know how free agency will go," Nicks told the newspaper. "Anxiety's still there, but I'm a little calmer."

The development with Brees also comes in the wake of a "bounty" scandal that has rocked the organization. The NFL revealed Friday that 22 to 27 Saints defenders and then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams administered a "pay for performance" system from 2009 to 2011 that included "bounty" payments.

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