Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS Each day that goes by without Drew Brees signing a long-term contract with the Saints draws the franchise one day closer to having to use the franchise tag on the quarterback.

Today is the first day NFL clubs can place franchise tags on players with expiring contracts and for New Orleans, there are at least three players the Saints could need to use it on.

But Brees is by far the most significant.

Under the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed upon in July, players earn the average of the past five franchise tags used for the position.

According to, a franchise-tagged quarterback will earn $14.4 million this year, down nearly $1.5 million from last season.

For Brees, that would be a nearly $5 million increase on this past season.

Yet, Brees is expected to command a salary that's near the top in the NFL, commensurate with what the Patriots' Tom Brady (four years, $72 million) currently for, which the franchise tag would be several million dollars below.

Should the Saints figure out a way to conclude those negotiations, they would be left with franchise tag available for All-Pro Carl Nicks or receiver Marques Colston.

A franchise-tagged receiver is set to make $9.4 million this year while a franchise-tagged offensive lineman will make $9.4 million, as well.

That means Colston would earn a nearly $5 million pay raise with the one-year contract or Nicks, who signed a one-year tender prior to 2011, would get nearly $7 million pay more than he just played for.

Fellow offensive guard Jahri Evans, who signed the richest-contract for a guard at the time he signed it in 2010, is set to make less than the franchise-tag this season before his contract value goes up in 2013.

Teams can franchise tag a player until March 5.

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