Drew Brees, who is heading into the final year of his contract with the New Orleans Saints, has a little-known, rarely used clause in his deal that prohibits the team from using its franchise tag on him, league sources told ESPN.
Brees could still re-sign with New Orleans, a city he says he loves and will always be connected to, but the team cannot block him from leaving.
The 38-year-old Brees, who led the NFL in passing yards for the seventh time with 5,208 last season, said during the summer that he is not focused on his contract status. The Saints open their season on Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
"Right now, [no discussions are taking place]. I don't expect them to. I don't really desire them to," Brees said in July. "I just want to play football and help this team win."
Last year, under similar circumstances, Brees and the Saints worked out a one-year, $24.25 million extension just a few days before the regular-season opener so that he wouldn't become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Information from ESPN's Mike Triplett was used in this report.