This won’t happen. This will never happen. So please, Saints fan, set down the piping hot cup of coffee you were about to throw in your face because that pain seems like it will be more tolerable than the hole in your heart that would grow if Drew Brees misses a regular-season game. Any regular season games.
Saints fans are currently clutching those steaming beverages and/or sitting on a rooftop with a rope attached to both their manhood and a brick because of the doom tweeted by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen earlier this afternoon. (Quick aside: I once typoed “Christ Mortensen,” and of all the typos I’ve scattered here, that may be the most accurate, for he is a god of some kind).
The Mort report reported that if Brees hasn’t agreed to a long-term contract prior to Monday’s deadline to sign long-term contracts, he’ll leave the Saints guessing as to when he’ll report to the team, and it likely won’t be before Week 1, meaning he could threaten to miss regular-season time. While that’s a legitimate and very possible threat, it’s still difficult to imagine a world in which Brees would actually execute such a power move.
Sitting out a chunk of the season as a 33-year-old quarterback is unwise, and a move that should only be forced by nature (i.e. Peyton Manning sat out for a full year because his neck didn’t allow him to throw to his left for most of the season).
Yes, it’s true that elite quarterbacks are often highly productive into their late 30s, and Brees certainly fits that description after he broke Dan Marino’s single-season record for passing yards last year with 5,472 while completing 71.2 percent of his passes. But a healthy QB willfully aging in pursuit of a mega deal is senseless, because in the process he’s also decreasing his chances of getting that deal as teams grow leery of a long-term commitment to a quarterback who’s approaching the wrong side of 35.
Forget all that, though, because merely by writing those sentences I’ve wasted your time. This is posturing. Pure, textbook posturing, and both you and I are being used. Here’s the chain reaction:
1. Someone in Brees’ camp leaks this to Mort, knowing that Mort has to report it because, well, reporting stuff is his job.
2. Then every NFL writer (HI!) runs with it too and pushes the snowball, because we’re also not doing our jobs if we don’t pass along the news that one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks could miss regular-season time in a contract dispute.
3. Fans–those fragile, emotional creatures–do what fans do. Yell, become scared, and hide under impenetrable objects.
It’s all done in an effort to influence negotiations, talks that have evidently stalled since Brees’ camp hasn’t responded to an offer the Saints made on June 1, according to PFT. That offer reportedly is worth $19.2 million annually, which is slightly more than Peyton Manning’s contract, and would make Brees the highest-paid player in league history. Brees is instead seeking a contract that pays him $20.5 million yearly, according to ESPN.
But despite every report everywhere that Monday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline could pass without a new contract for Brees, that’s still exceedingly difficult to imagine given the recent arbitrator’s ruling that a third franchise tag next year would result in a guaranteed salary of $23.6 million for the 2013 season, a number that then sets the parameters for talks next offseason if Brees is forced to play under the franchise tag. This is a historically fragile time for the Saints franchise, and they desperately need their offensive rudder. If an agreement isn’t reached by Monday and that gap isn’t bridged, there’s a legitimate risk that next March Brees could become a free agent, since that inflated salary may be too much to afford for a team that’s already $3 million over the cap, and has four other starters entering their walk years. The room to wiggle and restructure contracts would be non-existent, and at that point Brees’ contract may become an anchor that’s far too heavy.
There’s too much risk here to bicker over a little more than $1 million, because the financial line has to be drawn somewhere, and the other side of that line is possibly a Saints team that doesn’t include Drew Brees due to the extra money he’d be guaranteed with a 2013 tag. That’s why today’s posturing is Brees doing what he has every right to do as an athlete in a sport where career longevity is at a premium.
He’s trying to squeeze out every dollar, and maximize the thrust of his leverage to get what he deserves. Right now, his hand is firmly on the hammer.