Drew Brees asked to be exempt from tag

Back in the dull days of last summer’s lockout there was a story that got some brief attention but quietly faded away as a new collective bargaining agreement was reached.

Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, two of the named plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, asked to be exempt from the franchise tag. Nothing ever came of that, and there is irony in that now as Brees faces the very real possibility of being hit with the franchise tag.

The New Orleans quarterback is currently scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Negotiations are continuing with the Saints, and there are reports the sides are far apart and the team is prepared to use the tag on Brees if a deal isn’t reached by next week.

Although the franchise tag would pay Brees more than $14 million and keep him with the Saints, the events of last summer are a pretty strong indication that the quarterback doesn’t want to be tagged. An unhappy Brees would not be a good thing.

Why would he be unhappy if he’s getting more than $14 million in guaranteed money? Brees has a reputation as being one of the truly great guys in the sports world, and that’s deserved. But Brees also has ego and pride -- if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be half the player he is. If he doesn’t get a contract as the highest-paid player in the game, it’s going to eat at his pride, and that’s not healthy for the quarterback or the Saints.

Also, there’s a perception out there that using the franchise tag on Brees will destroy the Saints’ salary-cap situation. That’s not entirely true. Tagging Brees would bring a cap hit of $14.6 million. If he gets a long-term deal and his contract is structured anything like recent deals by Manning and Tom Brady, his first-year cap figure likely would be more than $16 million. The tag actually would save the Saints a bit of cap money, and they need all the help they can get in that department.