Drew Brees said Tuesday that he's confident he'll agree to a deal with the New Orleans Saints, but the players' union reportedly has quietly asked the NFL to investigate if the team is negotiating with its franchise player in good faith.
The NFL Players Association recently sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league to check into the Saints' negotiations with Brees, CBSSports.com reported, citing unnamed sources. A source has confirmed to ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that the letter was sent to Goodell.
According to the CBSSports.com report, some members of the NFLPA believe the Saints might be punishing Brees for the vocal role he took during last year's lockout. Brees also was one of the 10 named plaintiffs on the antitrust suit filed against the league during the work stoppage.
Brees did not ask the NFLPA to contact the league, according to the report. Brees and the Saints have until July 16 to agree to a long-term contract or he must play under his one-year franchise tender in 2012, worth $16.371 million. If the league doesn't start an investigation before the July 16 deadline, the NFLPA will file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, CBSSports.com reported.
CBSSports.com reported that the NFLPA specifically asked the NFL in the letter to investigate whether the Saints had violated Article 49, Section 1 of the collective bargaining agreement, which states: "No Discrimination: There shall be no discrimination in any form against any player by the NFL, the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA."
During an interview Tuesday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning," Brees said he is "very confident" that he will reach an agreement with the Saints before July 16.
"I've always said, you would think this process should be a lot simpler than it is," Brees said. "It just always seems to be complicated. But I'm still very confident that we'll get a long-term deal done, and hopefully that will happen sooner than later."
Loomis submitted a revised proposal to Brees' representatives earlier this month, but the renewed talks did not create a significant breakthrough in the deadlock, sources told ESPN's Ed Werder and Mortensen.
The protracted contract battle has been further complicated by a grievance hearing that took place Wednesday morning with arbitrator Stephen Burbank to determine the designation of Brees' franchise tag.
The NFLPA has asked Burbank to determine whether Brees has been hit with the franchise tag for a first or second time, because the language in the collective bargaining agreement is vague.
Burbank is expected to render a decision within a week.
Brees' first team, the San Diego Chargers, placed the tag on the six-time Pro Bowler in 2005 after his rookie contract expired. The applicable language in the CBA says "any club that designates a player for the third time ... " The union's position is the CBA intended for a player to be franchised no more than three times, regardless of which team places the tag.
The value of Brees' $16.371 million tag for 2012 won't change regardless of Burbank's ruling. But the effect on a would-be tag in 2013 would be significantly impacted because the league's policy stipulates a second franchise tag is a 120 percent bump in salary from the first tag and the third time is 144 percent.
According to ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton, a 144 percent bump would put Brees' cap number for 2013 at $23,574,240, though another exclusive tag could raise the number a little higher. That would put his two-year earnings at $39,945,240, or a little less than $20 million per year.
Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder and The Associated Press was used in this report.