NEW ORLEANS – Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints still must close a significant gap in guaranteed money if they are to agree on a five-year contract worth about $100 million by Monday’s looming deadline for a long-term deal, said a person familiar with the negotiations.
The sides were more than $10 million apart in the guaranteed portion of the contract Wednesday, the person told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing.
The stakes are high for both sides and the negotiations have lasted for months, including long gaps in communication between the two camps.
Brees, who is 33 and entering his 12th season, has never before had the chance to negotiate a contract on par with the elite quarterbacks of the game. The Saints, meanwhile, risk alienating the best quarterback in franchise history, not to mention their fan base, by failing to make an offer to his satisfaction by Monday – the deadline for players with the franchise tag to sign long-term deals.
Several months ago, Brees first raised the possibility that he would not report to the opening of training camp if all that was on the table at that time was the one-year franchise tag of about $16.3 million. People familiar with the quarterback’s plans say that remains the case.
Brees has said he does not want to play under a one-year contract with no long-term security in the coming seasons. He did it once before, with costly consequences, when he played under the franchise tag for San Diego in 2005 and wound up with a career-threatening injury to his throwing shoulder.
That injury led him to accept a six-year, $60 million deal with New Orleans in 2006, which left him playing for well below market value in the past few seasons, even as he was setting club and league records.
Brees had hoped that an extension would be done before 2011, but when it was not, he decided not to hold out and played without the security of a long-term contract. He remained healthy the entire season and passed for an NFL single-season record 5,476 yards. Brees considered that an act of faith in the Saints, and now he is insistent that that faith be returned in the form of a contract that not only would give him the highest average annual salary in the game, but also guarantee a significant portion of his salary.
General manager Mickey Loomis has said he understands that Brees’ contract is the most important deal on which he has worked in his career. However, he has stressed that such a deal, with the potential to affect the team’s ability to sign other players, must be entered into with caution.