If you think Drew Brees is a great quarterback, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis apparently disagrees with you.
According to a report from Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, Loomis thinks Brees is very good, but not great. And therefore Loomis thinks Brees’s new contract should be commensurate with what a very good quarterback, but not a great quarterback, gets paid.
Citing three league sources, Cole writes that Loomis made the distinction between Brees being “very good” and “great” in a recent discussion about the status of the soon-to-be free agent quarterback’s contract. When Loomis was asked why it was taking so long for the Saints and Brees to reach an agreement on a long-term contract extension, Loomis described Brees as “very good” when others called called him “great.”
According to the report, Brees and the Saints are about $5 million a year apart on a new contract. Which is apparently the difference between what a great quarterback makes and what a very good quarterback makes.
The Saints believe that, no matter how much Brees huffs and puffs, he’ll never hold out for any significant period of time. Especially not in 2012.
In 2012, the Saints and Brees will try to rebound from a special season that fell short of a Super Bowl because the team failed to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. In 2012, home-field advantage in the playoffs can be parlayed into home-field advantage in the Super Bowl, something no team ever has done in 46 prior Super Bowls.
In 2012, the Saints need Brees to be fully engaged in order to have the kind of regular season that results in home-field advantage in the postseason. And Brees knows it. And the Saints are banking on Brees ultimately choosing his team over himself.
Brees has said on multiple occasions that he’ll be with the Saints in 2012. He has refrained from saying anything negative about the team throughout months of fruitless negotiations. He has downplayed the potential drama that can arise from these negotiations.
The Saints believe Brees will accept the franchise tag before the launch of offseason workouts, if that’s what it comes to. More immediately, the Saints believe Brees will want to try to work out the best possible long-term deal, so that the Saints can instead use the franchise tag on Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks.
The Saints can get away with playing hardball because they fundamentally believe Brees won’t say or do anything that will paint him as anything less than an all-around good guy. A guy who puts others before himself. A guy who organized workouts during the lockout in order to ensure that the team will be ready for the 2011 season.
Brees has crafted an image that now prevents him from taking the kind of action necessary to get the team’s attention. He can’t hold out. He can’t demand a trade. He can’t try to make the case to the media that he deserves at least one-sixth of the entire salary cap allotment per year.
The risk, of course, is that the Saints will push Brees to the point where he acts out of character. But that would hurt Brees as much, if not more, than it would hurt the Saints.
None of this changes the fact that Brees deserves to be paid among the best quarterbacks in the game. Over the last six years, he has been the very best quarterback in the game. But as other players have learned over the years, being the best doesn’t always mean getting the best contract. To do that, the player must have leverage, and he must be willing to use it.
Brees has leverage. But the Saints are guessing that Brees won’t use it. And the Saints probably are guessing right.