|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
“"When it comes down to certain provisions of the contract, there are little things here and there that take time to resolve," Brees said. "But in the end, the organization typically starts off at one place, the player starts off at another, and you find a way to a compromise and meet in the middle and do what's fair and just." Brees acknowledged that the NFL's bounty investigation into the Saints has slowed down negotiations. "This has been a stressful offseason in a lot of ways. There's been a lot of distractions for everybody," he told The Associated Press on Tuesday from New York. "I'm not using that as an excuse other than just stating it as fact. That has delayed things quite a bit at times." The protracted contract battle has been further complicated by an upcoming grievance hearing with arbitrator Stephen Burbank to determine the designation of Brees' franchise tag. The NFLPA has asked Burbank 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. Brees' first team, the San Diego Chargers, placed the tag on the six-time Pro Bowler 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. The value of Brees' $16.371 million tag for 2012 won't change regardless of Burbank's ruling. 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. Despite the widespread speculation, Brees does not think his contract status will impact whether he reports to training camp in late July. "That's about a month and a half away," he said Tuesday. "So there's a lot of time between then and now. I'm just working on getting something done." Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
I've always said, you would think this process should be a lot simpler than it is. It just always seems to be complicated. But I'm still very confident that we'll get a long-term deal done, and hopefully that will happen sooner than later.” -- Drew Brees on contract
negotiations with Saints