Saints QB Drew Brees deserves every penny the Saints can pay him
By Cody WorshamPosted Mar 21, 2012
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees has been given a franchise tag before.
In 2005, the San Diego Chargers – who selected Brees out of Purdue University in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft – placed the tag on Brees, restricting his ability to sign as a free agent and essentially granting him a one-year contract with no guarantees beyond that.
Then, in the final game of the regular season, disaster struck. Brees went down with a major injury to his shoulder, and his prospects of taking another NFL snap – and signing another NFL contract – looked grim.
“I’ve played under the franchise tag before back in 2005, and that ended with 13 anchors in my right shoulder and having a 25 percent chance of playing football again,” Brees told Mike & Mike last week. “That didn’t work out too well for me.”
Seven years later, Brees has, once again, been tagged, albeit under wholly different circumstance. The Saints’ free agent QB is looking to sign one of the most lucrative deals in NFL history – reportedly upwards of $23 million per year – as he enters what is certainly the final major contract negotiation of his career. Unable to come to terms with their star, however, the Saints chose to tag Brees, a bargaining chip that limits Brees’ ability to talk to other teams and drives up the price of his contract through increased demand.
“All the franchise tag means is that nobody else can talk to me, but that I can still continue to have discussions with the Saints,” Brees said. “[I’m] still hoping that we can get something done sooner or later.”
Despite his words, Brees’ tone indicates he’s none-too-happy with the way things have played out. Initially optimistic entering the offseason about the ability to come to terms with the Saints, the greatest Saint to ever don the black and gold sounds increasingly frustrated as the days pass without a new contract.
“I think a lot of people think that a deal like this is very clear-cut and plain and simple,” he said. “There’s probably a lot more to it than just what you might see on the surface. It’s not like something like this happens overnight or even over the course of a few weeks. It takes some time.”
As courteous as Brees is being to GM Mickey Loomis and the rest of the Saints’ front office, something like this should have taken no time at all. For the most transcendent athlete in Louisiana history – and one of the most influential athletes in all of American sports history – money should be no object.
The Saints are playing hardball with Brees, who expressed a desire to finalize negotiations before free agency began last week. Reports indicate Brees wants a long-term deal with most of the money up front, in case another injury cuts his career short. The Saints, meanwhile, are reportedly stuck on $18 million, with neither side willing to bridge the $5 million gap.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the Saints’ process. It’s a business, and they are going to try to make the best decision from a financial end. But from a long-term perspective, giving Brees the contract he wants is the best decision not just for the franchise, but also for the city itself.
Unquestionably, Brees deserves what he wants. In his six years in New Orleans, Brees has turned around arguably the least successful franchise in NFL history. The money he has brought into owner Tom Benson’s pocket can’t be measured but is certainly in the tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions.
But more importantly, Brees will use his money better than even the Saints could. The $5 million a year they’d save with the cheaper contract would probably be split up among several role players. In Brees’ hands, however, that money would continue to support the efforts of one of sports’ greatest philanthropists.
“Who knows what the future holds,” Brees said after the season. “We’re always going to have a strong connection with New Orleans. We’re always going to give back to New Orleans. I’m talking like 20, 30, 40 years from now. This is a place that is very special in our lives.”
If you can’t take his word for it, look at his track record. Brees was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 2010 not just for his instrumental role in leading the Saints to a Super Bowl title, but also for helping rebuild a city nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Brees arrived in the city less than a year after the storm and revitalized it as much off the field as he did on it. His Brees Dream Foundation has contributed over $6 million to rebuilding efforts, and he’s added hundreds of thousands of his own money to other philanthropic efforts.
Part of Brees’ desire to give back comes from the fact that no other team besides the Saints would take a chance on him post-injury.
“I needed New Orleans just as much as New Orleans needed me,” Brees told SI. “People in New Orleans needed somebody to care about them. And it was the one place that cared about me.”
Today, that relationship is in danger of being broken. While most believe a deal will be cut before the season starts, there’s a distinct possibility that the two sides could fail to agree to terms, and that the relationship between the Saints and the greatest Saint would be at best strained and at worst permanently fractured.
That’s not a risk we’re willing to take, which is why we’re starting the #PayBrees movement, a social-media, fan-driven campaign to encourage the Saints to pay up and to give even the slightest amount of leverage toward Brees. By Tweeting and Facebook-ing our desire to see Brees’ contract demands met, we can, if nothing else, show the Saints, Brees, and the entire football world that New Orleans still needs Brees as much now as in 2005 and perhaps – just perhaps – help ensure we don’t lose him.
Be assured, this isn’t to paint the Saints’ front office as the bad guys. Clearly they want to make a good fiscal decision. What Loomis and the Saints’ front office have failed to realize, however, is that investing money in Brees is a direct investment in the city that still needs so much help recovering. Seven years later, Katrina’s signs are still visible, and we need men like Brees fighting to restore one of America’s great cities.
In coming to New Orleans, Brees became the rarest of things in the world of sports: a genuine hero. That’s something no amount of money – not even $23 million – can buy.
If you agree, then take to your social media network of choice and hop on board the #PayBrees movement. Unlike the Saints’ front office, there’s plenty of cap space.