Monday, July 2, 2012

It's Time to End the Contract Insanity

Allow me to start this column out by making a statement that would best made behind a screen of chicken wire: Drew Brees is not the greatest quarterback of all time.

Willie Roaf was a better a tackle than Brees is a quarterback.

Rickey Jackson was a better linebacker than Brees is a quarterback.

And Morten Andersen was a better kicker than Brees is a quarterback.

Roaf will be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August. Jackson was enshrined in 2010. And Andersen, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer who went to seven Pro Bowls, will likely have a bust in Canton if the committee remember kicking is indeed an important part of FOOTball.

If Brees’s playing career ended today, the Saints quarterback would likely get voted into the hall, though he wouldn’t be the slam-dunk Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will be when they’re eligible.

Brees would need to win a second Super Bowl to guarantee his spot in the hall.

That said, no player who has ever worn a gold helmet with a black fleur-de-lis has meant more to not just the franchise but also the city of New Orleans.

Brees is to Nola what John Elway is to Denver, Dan Marino is to Miami and George Brett is to Kansas City.

Number nine owns this town. He knows it. And perhaps more importantly his agent Tom Condon knows it.

And if someone else ends up taking snaps for the Saints offense in 2013, the 70,000+ waiting list for season tickets would shrink fast.

Even if Brees’s next few seasons don’t resemble the past few in the stat department, it is important to the franchise and the fans for him to have a contract that will allow him to end his playing career as a Saint.

So who is at fault for the way Brees’s signing has been so drawn out?

This blogger doesn’t have any scoop as to negotiations between the team and Brees/Condon, but a large part of the blame needs to be left on the doorstep of the Saints’ front office.

Why did owner Tom Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis let negotiations drag out this far?

Did the Saints’ braintrust really believe Brees could be signed at a lower price while the franchise quarterback was tearing up opposing defenses and the NFL record book?

As much as I appreciate Benson’s post-Katrina commitment to building a quality team and Loomis’s moves to remake the Saints into a perennial Super Bowl contender, not coming to terms with Brees at an earlier and cheaper date boggles the mind.

That’s not to say Brees and Condon are faultless as negotiations have entered overtime.

Is Brees simply being greedy?

Are the quarterback and his agent stalling until a late June arbitration hearing is held about Brees’s’ future franchise tag status?

Or is Team Brees looking to play “negotiation chicken” up against the July 16th deadline for a multiyear deal?

Is Condon letting his drive to ink a record contract for his client and his own reputation delay an agreement that could jeopardize the chances of Brees ending his gridiron days in a Saints uniform?

Brees isn’t the only person whose tenure with the Saints is on the line.

If Brees ends up playing for another team in 2013, Loomis can start cleaning out his office on Airline Drive.

Loomis would go down in Black and Gold lore as the general manager who lost the team’s most important player and he would be lucky to land a gig as an executive in the Arena Football League.

One has to think Loomis has lost more sleep over Brees’s contract than his own suspension for his connection with the Saints bounty scandal.

Last season Brees demonstrated the kind of leadership that made Who Dats fall in love with him all over again when he organized voluntary workouts for his teammates at Tulane while the players and the league owners worked to reach a longterm deal.

This year, Saints fans are being treated to something else: a multimillionaire quarterback and his agent publicly hemming and hawing over contract details with a franchise that has a track record of letting their great players go elsewhere in the face of prolonged negotiations.

Both sides need to keep their egos in check and work out a reasonable contract that recognizes Brees’s value as an athlete and a pillar of the organization and the community without mortgaging the team’s future.

Every dollar paid to Brees is one less buck the team can use to sign an offensive lineman or defensive back.

To Brees’s credit, he has recently toned down his frustrations about the state of negotiations and has instead redirected his public grievances towards the league’s treatment of his coaches and teammates caught in the bounty scandal.

As great as Brees is, the protracted haggling isn’t not making the Saints a better team.

It’s time to get a deal done. Hopefully the upcoming arbitration ruling concerning another potential franchise tag will accelerate making a deal.

Andersen, Jackson, Roaf, Pat Swilling, Archie Manning and Sam Mills all ended their playing days wearing the uniform of another team.

For the sake of Saints fans everywhere, let’s hope Brees does not join that number.

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