The NFL’s off-season has been dominated by news of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal that has enveloped the entire organization and caused further suspicion throughout the league. On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the four players suspended as a result of “BountyGate” have had their appeals denied, forcing the accused players to serve their punishment in full.
While the bounty scandal may seem to be winding down, another Saints saga rages on — one that will have a much larger effect on the future of the New Orleans franchise than any “BountyGate” decision. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled in favour of Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Tuesday, as the 33-year-old tries to secure himself a long-term contract in New Orleans.
The Saints placed the franchise tag on Brees this off-season, meaning he could be forced to sign a one-year, $16.3-million contract if the two sides cannot come to a long-term agreement this summer.
Have your say: Have an opinion on the news of the day? Better yet, want to become a Fan Fuel blogger? Email us here. | Should Blue Jays be buyers or sellers?
Burbank decided the Saints owe Brees a 44 per cent raise from the 20 per cent the NFL argues Brees would be owed should New Orleans put the franchise tag on him again following the 2012 season.
If a player is going to sacrifice long-term security and a chance to test the free agent market, a significant raise should be the next option.
But perplexing questions surround the Saints contract situation with Brees. Particularly, why have the Saints allowed it to come to this? Would the Saints even think about creating more of a rift with Brees after the upcoming season?
Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Tim Micallef said it best Tuesday on the “Tim and Sid” show:
“It just seems to me that (Brees) is the saviour of the franchise, and they treat him like poop.” Micallef said. “How can you not give Brees whatever deal he wants right now? It’s ridiculous.”
Brees came to New Orleans, a city and team devastated by Hurricane Katrina and a consistently disappointing product on the field, prior to the 2006 season. Since Brees’ arrival in the “Big Easy” the Saints have been anything but disappointing.
New Orleans had been to the postseason only four times in the team’s 38-year history before Brees chose the Saints as his new team. Since then, New Orleans has made four playoff appearances in the six years that Brees has been with the club.
Brees has led the Saints to a 64.5 winning percentage, including four double digit-win seasons and three division titles. In the six years prior to the Purdue product’s arrival, the Saints won 47 per cent of their games, making it to the postseason just once (in 2000). The team had also only won two division titles in the pre-Brees era.
In his five years with the San Diego Chargers, Brees threw for 12,348 yards and 80 touchdowns. In his six seasons in New Orleans, Brees’ numbers have skyrocketed to 28,394 passing yards and a whooping 201 touchdowns. Along with 2,488 completed passes, these numbers are the best by any NFL quarterback since 2006.
Up to 2005, the Saints had only ranked in the top six in offence three times since 1967. Since 2006, the Saints offence has been in the top six every year.
Brees and the Saints smashed four of the NFL’s most important offensive records in 2011 — completions, completion percentage, passing yards and total offensive yards. Coupled with two 5,000-plus yard seasons in six seasons, the offensive prowess Brees has brought to Louisiana is undeniable.
By the time the Saints were crowned Super Bowl champions in 2009, Brees had already been considered by most NFL experts to the best free-agent signing in league history.
Brees has been willing to put his contract talks on the back burner as the Saints organization deals with the fall-out of the bounty scandal. Despite the negative publicity that has surrounded the Saints, Brees remains positive about the ongoing negotiations.
“This has been a stressful off-season in a lot of ways. There’s been a lot of distractions for everybody,” Brees told the Associated Press last month. “I’m not using that as an excuse other than just stating it as fact. That has delayed (negotiations) quite a bit at times.”
In spite of the stress and delay, Brees has taken the high road: “I’m confident, and always have been, that we’ll get a long-term deal accomplished.”
On Jun. 28, Brees appeared on The David Letterman Show, and when asked about the bounty scandal, Brees stuck up for his suspended teammates and their continuous struggle with the NFL.
“I’ll be honest with you, and I think I can speak for all fans in America for that matter, we are tired of hearing about it,” Brees told Letterman. “We don’t want to talk about it anymore. Put forth the facts, the truth, and if indeed there was a pay-to-injure scheme, then people will get punished, and if there’s not, then let’s exonerate these men because, at this point, it seems like it’s a smear campaign. We’re dragging them through the mud; we’re ruining their reputations and careers with no true evidence.”
Brees has shown the results to warrant a new, long-term contract and, since the day he arrived in New Orleans in 2006, has been there for the Saints when they needed him most.