As if the bountygate scandal that rocked the NFL and head coach Sean Payton's yearlong suspension haven't already put the organization in enough of a spot, an unhappy Brees could cripple the team and wreck whatever hopes remain for the coming season. Brees, just two seasons removed from being a Super Bowl MVP, is seeking a long-term deal with the Saints.
Brees was furious in May when the Saints tendered him the one-year franchise tag deal and still has refused to sign the offer sheet. He and the team must work out a deal that works for both parties by July 16 or else he'll have to play the next season for the $16.3 million afforded by the franchise tag, which also restricts any other team from signing him.
ESPN's Chris Mortenson reports that the Saints have offered Brees a contract worth an annual average of $19.25 million, just more than Peyton Manning's $19.2 million contract with the Denver Broncos. At 33, Brees is three years younger than Manning, has won the same number of Super Bowls (one) and has four fewer neck surgeries. Mortenson said Brees is seeking an average yearly salary of $20.5 million.
Last season, Brees broke Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards by throwing for 5,746. In his six seasons with New Orleans, Brees has been in five Pro Bowls and led the team to three playoff berths. He's been welcomed with open arms because of his success in post-Katrina New Orleans.
The Washington Post is reporting that Brees has until the week following the tenth game of the regular season to sign the current contract offer or he'd be forced to sit out the rest of the season. Brees has stated in the past that he will not miss time in the regular season.
Without Payton, the Saints simply can't afford to lose Brees, physically or mentally. He's been called the team's on-field coach and the single reason they have not been totally discounted following the defensive suspensions that followed the bounty controversy.
If the Saints hold their ground with Brees and test whtether he'll play the 2012 season, they are taking a huge risk. Brees could be easily be so fed up with the franchise that following the expiration of the franchise tag, he could seek employment elsewhere. With his credentials, Brees would be at the top of any free agent class.
Not only that, the Saints would be alienating a player who's widely regarded as one of the best leaders in the game, at a time when the franchise needs just that.