As frustrating as Drew Brees not being under contract has been for all parties involved, the one impressive part of the situation was both sides refusal to play the media game. Up until yesterday, the talks have remained incredibly tight lipped and private, with only hearsay tidbits being dropped by the media citing “sources familiar with talks”. That all changed when Brees finally went public, though, and now the game has changed. Before it was all good faith negotiating. Now, the media has officially been brought in, which suggests the negotiations have reached a stage where Brees no longer believes he can attain his wants without the help of spin to the public to gain fan sympathy. To the Saints credit, so far they haven’t taken the bait.
The key date always has been July 16th and it remains so. Despite this unfortunate turn, the Saints still have 2 months to figure this out. If July 16th comes and Brees is forced to live with his franchise tender only, then it’s a disaster. Until then this situation is unfortunate, but fixable. Still, Brees’ relationship with the organization is strained and that’s not a good thing. We don’t want him souring on the Saints. And while most fans are siding with Brees on this one, he has caught some heat for being greedy, too. I am a little afraid of fans turning on Brees, at least partially, and him in turn souring on them too. The longer this process goes the worse it gets from here on out. Unfortunately I don’t really see this resolving before the 11th hour. Both sides have gotten this far and seem far enough apart that I suspect they will go as long as it takes to wait for the “opposition” to blink. They’ve come this far so I’m sure the attitude is “why bend now?”. No one is desperate until the reality of Brees playing on a 1 year franchise tender, or holding out the entire 2012 season, comes into play. Brees has resorted to plan B in the process, though, and plan C/plan D only make the circus crazier from here.
I do want to caution fans against blasting the organization on this one. I sympathize with the “sign Drew Brees at all costs, just give him what he wants” position, but I also don’t belive in mortgaging the future in praise of the past. The NFL is a business and the Saints have gotten to where they are now by running things in a very smart manner the last 6 years. In the age of the salary cap you can’t spend irresponsibly on your stars even if you wanted to. Look how that’s worked out for the Redskins, Eagles, and many others. You have to manage finances across a very deep roster, especially in the Saints’ case, and they’re trying to massage the numbers in an effort to ultimately win games. As fans we can’t have a philosophical problem with that, even if it’s to the detriment of Drew Brees. Now of course, part of being a smart run business in the NFL is hanging on to your elite quarterback. Still, the Saints aren’t at risk of losing them. Can you blame them for taking advantage of the NFL rules to pin down Brees? Brees isn’t an unrestricted free agent, and if he doesn’t like the franchise tag offer or a long term deal the Saints offer, he can choose to sit the year out. That’s really his only card. I can’t really blame the Saints for angling Brees towards a smaller figure. As fans we need to remember that this is part of a process and they’re doing this in an effort to win more games. No one player is ever bigger than the team.
I don’t blame Brees for being frustrated, either. His deal should have been done by now. But I’m sure Mickey Loomis feels the exact same way. What does make me feel uneasy is the turn this has taken, which suggests we’re not very close to a resolution. I have a feeling it’ll get worse before it gets better. Just get it done by July 16th boys.