Saints can't afford to mess with Brees

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. (REUTERS/Sean Gardner)

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. (REUTERS/Sean Gardner)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

One way or another Drew Brees will be quarterbacking the New Orleans Saints next season. But getting to that point could get messier and nastier than two southern Crackers hovering over the last chicken leg at a bayou family reunion.

The club and Brees remain far apart in contract negotiations according to league sources and that spells trouble in so many ways.

If the team doesn’t get Brees signed to a new deal by Monday it will be forced to use the franchise tag on him.

It keeps him with the team, it gives them time for further negotiations but it also has the possibility of stirring up a lot of ill will. It would allow Brees the right to skip workouts, training camp and pre-season as leverage for a long-term deal.

That’s no way to start a season for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Financially, it would cost the Saints $14.4 million to franchise tag Brees. Cheap by quarterback standards.

But the price they will pay can’t be counted with dollar signs. Brees would again become a free agent next season. Meantime, the loss of goodwill between him and the club would be immeasurable. The damage it might do to the team’s Super Bowl chances could be catastrophic.

Failing to sign Brees would also be a publicity nightmare. He has become symbolic of the community’s rise from despair and destruction following Hurricane Katarina. He also just happens to possess some of the greatest passing numbers in NFL history including most yards passing in a season, a record he achieved in 2011, breaking that of former Miami Dolphins great, Dan Marino.

Failing to sign Brees is unthinkable. Since his arrival in New Orleans in 2006, he has passed for more yards (28,394) than any other quarterback in the NFL while lifting the Saints and the hearts of New Orleans residents to new heights. Despite that, he was just the 16th highest paid quarterback (by average yearly salary) this season.

Nobody in the league would, it seem, be more deserving of a raise. Roger Goodell may have helped save a league but even he can’t claim to have helped save a city. There is a justifiable argument that Brees should be among the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the league and it is believed his agent, Tom Condon, is asking for a contract in the $20 million-per-season neighbourhood currently occupied by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

It’s a price, for so many reasons, the Saints simply have to pay.

Failing to sign Brees by the Monday deadline has further roster ramifications because they wouldn’t be able to use the franchise tag on another player, such as Marques Colston or guard Carl Nicks.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll get a deal done,” Brees told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I think there’s been progress. But just like everything it’s a process. It takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight.”

Still while some would perhaps agree that it wouldn’t happen overnight, expectations just as certainly were that it would have been done by now.

IN HINES-SIGHT

The Steelers made it official Wednesday.

The news everyone believed was coming arrived; Hines Ward, the club’s all-time leader in receptions, is being released after 14 seasons.

“Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve,” Steelers president Art Rooney II told Steelers.com. “He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field ... he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”

MONEY GRUBBING?

Ravens coach John Harbaugh told a radio station that Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda give them a duo of guards unmatched in the league. Yanda signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract last season and Harbaugh said that the team plans to pay Grubbs “as such” to keep the tandem together.

“We’ve offered — I don’t know if we’ve offered it yet — but we’re in negotiations of offering a lot of money,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to really make a run at Ben.”

The Ravens need Grubbs for his ability to open holes for Ray Rice.

The only problem is Grubbs is playing hard to get. None of Harbaugh’s platitudes, or the Ravens’ money, appear to be dissuading him from testing the free agent market.

“Ben is extremely highly regarded in this league. He’s in the prime of his career and may or may not have another opportunity to sign another significant contract,” Grubbs’ agent Pat Dye told the Baltimore Sun. “He needs to be sure that he explores all his options.”

QUICK HITS

Patriots running back Kevin Faulk hasn’t decided whether to retire but if/when he does he’d like to stay with the club as a coach ... The Jets are interested in bringing back Braylon Edwards. He caught just 15 passes in an injury-filled season with the 49ers before being cut in Week 17. So the Jets have a shot at getting their leading receiver in 2010 back cheap ... Free agent linebacker Stephen Tulloch is close to resigning with the Lions which would allow them to tag defensive end Cliff Avril ... The Redskins intend to sign a high-profile free agent receiver. On the shopping list are Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, who turned down a contract extension from the Colts, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson and Mario Manningham ... Chargers’ guard Kris Dielman, scheduled to earn $5.5 million next season, will instead announce his retirement Thursday due to repeated concussions.


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