Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled Tuesday that Drew Brees’ current franchise tag will count as his second, a ruling that would have the possibility of affecting his 2013 salary as opposed to this year’s.
Should Brees not sign a long-term contract this offseason and get tagged again in 2013, he would earn 144 percent of this year’s contract, or roughly $23.5 million.
The NFL has not said whether it will appeal the ruling or not.
Both the NFL and NFLPA agreed that Brees’ 2013 potential franchise tag salary was adversely affecting negotiations between the quarterback and the Saints.
Brees was given the franchise tag by San Diego in 2005 and, along with the NFL Players Association, argued that this season’s tag would be his second.
The Saints, meanwhile, argued that the new collective bargaining agreement allowed one team to tag a player three times and that this was Brees’ first tag.
Burbank ruled that Brees, in fact, had already been tagged once regardless of where it happened.
“The arbitrator properly rejected the NFL’s strained interpretation of the CBA language, which ignored the fact that a Franchise Player designation is a narrow exception to the overall free agency structure. This ruling will help all Franchise Players in the future,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “We are very happy that Drew Brees has clarification on this matter, and we hope that it facilitates a successful negotiation for Drew and the Saints.”
The two sides have been locked in negotiations for more than a year as both sides attempt to come together on a long-term contract that would keep Brees in New Orleans.
Brees called off negotiations as the 2011 season began to focus on football. All he did in 2011 was break Dan Marino’s 27-year-old NFL record for passing yards in a season in leading the Saints to a 13-3 record and a third-consecutive playoff berth.
The Saints and Brees must sign a long-term contract by July 16 or the quarterback would only be allowed to play for the one-year franchise tag. Under that scenario, he would be allowed to negotiate a long-term contract after the 2012 season.
One former front office official said this could be a good thing.
“I think more than calling it a true victory, it should help everything coalesce into an agreement in the next few weeks, I hope,” said Jim Miller, a former executive vice-president with the Saints.