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'Team Brees' Looks For Edge In Contract Game With Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- If persecuted Saints fans view Bounty Gate judge/NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as Public Enemy No. 1, can the super agent for estranged quarterback Drew Brees be far behind?

I contend a new deal would have been done long ago if Brees' representative was someone other than Tom Condon, who not only is negotiating for No. 9 but every other NFL thoroughbred quarterback in the Condon stable.

Condon and his business associates also count Peyton and Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Alex Smith, Philip Rivers, Tim Tebow and rookie Robert Griffin III among their rich-and-famous clientele.

In all, Condon and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) represent nearly half of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the National Football League.

Simply, Condon & Company play a huge role in determining the going rate for many of the NFL's elite quarterbacks and that figure has yet to be established for Brees.

That is up for debate at the moment. According to the league's "exclusive'' franchise tag, Brees is guaranteed a one-year base salary of $16.371 million, or the average of the five highest paid quarterbacks in 2012.

No more, no less.

But Team Brees wants a multi-year agreement from Team Saints led by General Manager Mickey Loomis, one that promises greater guaranteed riches. After all, Michael Vick, the poster boy for underachieving quarterbacks, is guaranteed $40 million from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Thus, Team Brees and Team Saints are at an impasse.

The question is why?

"I believe Condon has put a 'poison pill' in his contract proposals -- voidable years, accelerated money, something -- that nobody knows about and everybody has ignored except Mickey, who says 'I'm not going to do this,' '' said former Saints capologist and longtime NFL executive Jim Miller, whose local website jwmillersports.com confonts this issue head on.

"There is something in there that Condon wants to establish as precedence for his future deals. And who better to do it than a team where the quarterback is the face of the franchise, an icon in the city, the most beloved athlete in the city, Archie Manning included. What better guy to force the Saints' hand than Drew Brees? Condon has got the perfect quarterback to establish a ripple effect. It is a confluence of circumstances.''

In fact, a case can be made that Condon is driving up the price for veteran quarterbacks in response to the recent rookie salary cap.

For example, neither Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck nor Baylor's RG3, the top two draft picks in April, will get blockbuster rookie deals like the one Condon negotiated two years ago for Bradford. That agreement with the St. Louis Rams guaranteed Bradford a record $50 million as part of a six-year, $78 million contract.

The 10-year labor deal struck last summer includes a rookie salary cap that limited last year's top pick, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, to a guaranteed $22 million.

This much we know: Brees wants to finish his career in New Orleans and the Saints want to grant him that wish. By all accounts, Brees' market has been established. He arguably is playing his position as well as anyone right now and should be paid accordingly.

If the Saints' long-range plan is to use the franchise tag year-to-year with Brees, he'll be entitled to $19.645 million in 2013 (i.e., 120 percent of his 2012 pay) and a whopping $28.289 million in 2014 (144 percent of his 2013 pay).

That's a total of $64.3 million over three years. Thus, if Brees currently is looking for an average payout of more than $21.43 million per year over the next three years (which equates to $64.3 million over three years), it makes no financial sense for the Saints to offer him a long-term deal.

So here we are, approximately 10 weeks from the start of training camp, two weeks from the start of hurricane season. Offseason workouts have begun, OTAs and minicamp are just around the corner and Brees is conspicuously absent.

Throw in the ongoing Bounty scandal and battle weary Saints fans must be wondering what they did to deserve an NFL offseason that resembles a 100-year storm.

NOTES: Hiring Peter Ginsberg as his lawyer may help extend LB Jonathan Vilma's career in 2012 and beyond as he faces a year-long suspension. Ginsberg represented Vikings DTs Pat Williams and Kevin Williams in the court battle against the NFL in connection with the StarCaps litigation. The StarCaps issue began in the 2008 season and Ginsberg fought the NFL until the league won in 2011. It kept the Williamses and Saints DE Will Smith on the field for nearly three seasons before serving their suspensions. Smith is facing a four-game suspension for his role in the Bounty scandal. ...

BOUNTY UPDATE: Ginsberg said the two grievances filed on Vilma's behalf earlier this month will be heard on May 16 and May 30. The first hearing will focus on the argument that the new CBA prevents the NFL from taking action of any kind against players for conduct occurring before August 4, 2011, along with the question of whether the appeals should be heard not by Commissioner Roger Goodell but by Ted Cottrell or Art Shell, jointly hired and paid by the league and the NFLPA to resolve appeals for on-field discipline.

The May 30 hearing centers on the contention that, to the extent the discipline arises from extra money paid to players in violation of the salary cap, the matter should be resolved via Special Master Stephen Burbank.

 

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