Saints smack tag on Brees

The Saints have given their franchise tag to quarterback Drew Brees. (SEAN GARDNER/Reuters file...

The Saints have given their franchise tag to quarterback Drew Brees. (SEAN GARDNER/Reuters file photo)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:57 PM ET

Well, that's one way to get everyone in New Orleans talking about something else.

About 24 hours after the NFL dropped the Bountygate bomb on The Big Easy, the Saints dropped the franchise tag on Drew Brees Saturday afternoon.

The all-pro QB would have become an unrestricted free agent on March 13, but not anymore. That's because the tag is of the 'exclusive' variety, meaning he is playing in New Orleans in 2012 so long as he doesn't protest and hold out.

Saints GM Mickey Loomis had been negotiating with Brees and his agent, Tom Condon, on a new long-term deal. Reports say the Saints had offered to make Brees the highest-paid player in the game, but the amount or term wasn't enough to satisfy Condon and Brees. The sides reportedly remain far apart.

The tag does not prevent the sides from reaching a deal; they have until July 16 to do so this year. Should they fail, Brees would become an unrestricted free agent next March — unless the Saints tag him again. In that case, they'd have to pay him 120% of his 2012 salary.

What will that be? As an exclusive franchise-tagged player, Brees will earn the average of the top five paid QBs in the league for this coming season — a salary expected to be as high as $17M, the NFL Network's Albert Breer reported Saturday. We won't know until the free-agency period concludes.

Bottom line: The Saints today retained their franchise QB, and Drew Brees doesn't have to mop floors in the off-season to make ends meet.

NFL clubs have until Monday to apply the franchise tag to one of their pending free agents.


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