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Monday, July 9, 2012
Crunch time for Drew Brees, Saints

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Training camps don't start for a couple more weeks and all but two NFC South rookies are signed (Tampa Bay’s Mark Barron and New Orleans’ Nick Toon are not), but I’ve got a strong hunch this could be one of the busiest weeks of the offseason in the division.

Or at least one of the most significant weeks of the offseason. That’s largely why I scheduled my time off to end this week.

Sometime in the next week, Drew Brees’ contract situation almost certainly will play out. I’ve said all along I expect the quarterback and the New Orleans Saints to reach a long-term contract agreement shortly before the deadline for franchise players to do so. That deadline is now exactly a week away and Brees and the Saints don’t have a lot of other good options.

Brees could sign the franchise tag and play for more than $16 million, but he wants a long-term deal. If the Saints franchise Brees again, his franchise number for next season increases 144 percent and the team doesn’t want that.

Both sides want a long-term deal and they want it quickly -- now. Those have been the goals all along, but there was no sense of urgency during the offseason.

That sense of urgency is upon Brees and the Saints now. In the next week, one side or the other will change the numbers on the table or someone will blink.

Once that happens, the Saints finally can move past all the offseason distractions and onto football because they’ll have their on-field leader back in the fold.