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Thursday, June 7, 2012
Drew Brees hearing later this month

By Chris Mortensen
ESPN

Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney on retainer with the NFL Players Association, said Thursday that he expects a grievance hearing to be scheduled in late June with arbitrator Stephen Burbank to determine the designation of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees' franchise tag.

The NFLPA asked Burbank last week to determine whether Brees has been hit with the franchise tag for a first or second time, because the language in the collective bargaining agreement is vague.

The Saints placed their exclusive rights tag on Brees earlier this offseason. But his first team, the San Diego Chargers, placed the tag on Brees in 2005 after his rookie contract expired. The applicable language in the CBA says "any club that designates a player for the third time ... " The union's position is the CBA intended for a player to be franchised no more than three times, regardless of which team places the tag.

Brees' current tag is worth $16.371 million, and that won't change no matter the ruling by Burbank. But the effect on a would-be tag in 2013 would be significantly impacted, because the league's policy stipulates a second franchise tag is a 120 percent bump in salary from the first tag and the third time is 144 percent.

According to ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton, a 144 percent bump would put Brees' cap number for 2013 at $23,574,240, though another exclusive tag could raise the number a little higher. That would put his two-year earnings at $39,945,240, or a little less than $20 million per year.

The Saints and Brees are locked in a protracted contract battle; the sides have until July 16 to hammer out a long-term extension. So, the decision on the franchise-tag designation would have an impact on those talks.