NEW ORLEANS -- Mea culpa (Mickey Loomis), mea culpa (Sean Payton), mea maxima culpa (Gregg Williams).
Now that New Orleans Saints GM Mickey Loomis, Coach Sean Payton and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have expressed their sincere, heartfelt sorrow (read: to try and save their skins) and taken responsibility for their varied roles in Bounty Gate -- Williams for being the undeniable ring leader of the "pay-for-pain'' rewards plan and Loomis and Payton for their complicit, passive/aggressive enabling of the illegal player behavior -- we await sentencing from Judge Roger.
By all reports, a ruling by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to be severe and far ranging and could come down before the owners' meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla., in several weeks.
Meantime, the "exclusive'' franchise tag remains an albatross around the neck of Saints quarterback Drew Brees. He doesn't want the designation, he doesn't like the designation and there are no indications he will shed the designation anytime soon.
The club and Brees' agent, Tom Condon, have until July 16 to strike a long-term deal that realistically could make him among the top 2 highest paid NFL quarterbacks. I say 2 because Peyton Manning is back on the market after being released Wednesday by Indianapolis, one day before he was scheduled to receive a $28 million roster bonus from Colts owner Jim Irsay.
A healthy Manning is expected to attract multiple suitors in the days leading up to the start of free agency at 3 p.m. Tuesday, which, in turn, is expected to drive up the asking price.
Condon also represents Manning, so look for that situation to dominate the super agent's every thought for the immediate future. In addition, Brees has no intention of continuing any negotiations with the Saints until his market value as an "exclusive'' franchise player is clearly established. That figure ultimately will reflect the average of the five salaries at his position as of April 16, or 120 percent of Brees' base salary in 2011, whichever is greater.
It promises to be at least $16 million with the potential to be more.
I still believe it is in the best interests of the Saints and Brees to strike a long-term deal prior to the deadline and not have No. 9 play under the "exclusive'' franchise tag. That would be good for the goose and good for the gander.
If a long-term deal is not reached by July 16, the odds of Brees finishing his playing days in New Orleans decrease exponentially, suggesting a parting of the ways similar to what occurred in Indianapolis.
As we witnessed, parting is such sweet sorrow.
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