As first reported by FOXSports.com NFL insider Jay Glazer, the Saints used their franchise tag Saturday afternoon on quarterback Drew Brees.
The move means that one of the league’s top passers will remain in New Orleans for at least the 2012 NFL season. Profootballtalk.com reported that Brees was given the “exclusive” franchise tender, rendering him unable to negotiate with other teams. In exchange, Brees will make several million more dollars than the “non-exclusive” tag that carries a $14.4 million base salary.
Despite more than a year’s worth of contract talks, New Orleans and Brees were unable to reach agreement on a new deal before the NFL’s 4 p.m. ET Monday deadline to utilize the franchise designation.
By tagging Brees, the Saints are now unable to franchise another top offensive player set to become an unrestricted free agent. Left guard Carl Nicks and wide receivers Marques Colston and Robert Meachem are now likely to hit the market and attract the kind of offers that would lead to their Saints’ departure.
New Orleans, though, couldn’t risk losing a player the caliber of Brees. He set the NFL’s single-season passing record last season with 5,476 yards, breaking the mark of 5,084 yards set by Miami’s Dan Marino in 1984. Brees also had 46 touchdown passes while leading the Saints to a 13-3 record and NFC South title.
A 2001 second-round draft choice by San Diego, the 33-year-old Brees joined the Saints as a free-agent in 2006 after signing a six-year, $60 million contract. He led the 2009 Saints to the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy in 2009 and earned Super Bowl XLIV MVP honors.
On his Twitter account (twitter.com/jayglazer), Glazer quoted sources as saying the Saints are expected to learn their punishment “possibly within the next week or two” for perpetuating a system that allowed defensive players to earn bounties for hits and damage inflicted on opponents between 2009 and 2011. Suspensions, fines and the loss of draft picks are among the punishments set that will likely be levied by the NFL, which announced the findings of its investigation into the bounties Friday.