January 1, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates throwing a touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE
By Robert Klemko, USA TODAY
Drew Brees has a shiny new bargaining chip, and the NFL Players Association earned a victory in its offseason-long back-and-forth with the league.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback has skipped offseason practices while holding out for a new long-term deal. Brees and his union successfully argued to joint-appointed arbitrator Stephen Burbank that the franchise tag placed on him this season by the team counts as his second, considering his 2005 tag with the Chargers.
The league argued unsuccessfully that the language in the new collective bargaining agreement allowed one team to use the tag three times on the same player.
Burbank's ruling in Brees' favor means that 2013 would be the last season he can be tagged. It also means he would be due a %144 raise if he were to be tagged again in 2013, a decision which empowers Brees during now-dormant contract negotiations, which must be completed by July 16 if he is to avoid the tag. Otherwise, Brees is due $16.4 million this season, if he signs the tag, and could be subject to another tag the next season.
If that were to happen, Brees would be owed about $23.5 million guaranteed in 2013 alone. The NFL has the right to appeal the ruling.
Brees last season broke Dan Marino's 27-year-old record for passing yards in one season, finishing with 5,476, and following the 2009 season, led the Saints to a Super Bowl victory.
The NFLPA issued the following statement in support of the ruling:
"We are very pleased that the arbitrator agreed with the NFLPA that the correct interpretation of the 'third time' Franchise Player designation in the CBA applies across clubs, and a player's rights will not be unfairly hindered if different clubs designate him as a Franchise Player during his career. 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."