PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An arbitrator expects to rule within a week on arguments presented Wednesday concerning the Saints' use of the NFL's franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees, NFL Players Association outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler said.
Arbitrator Stephen Burbank, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is handling the matter of how to interpret language in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, which requires any club that designates a player as a franchise player for the third time to give that player a 44 percent raise.
Brees, once a franchise tag player with San Diego, has been designated New Orleans' franchise player in 2012. The QB seeks clarity on whether the raise for third-time franchise players applies to his career, or only his stint with one team.
Burbank "said he will have a decision within one week and we're going to eagerly await that decision," Kessler said.
The ruling could affect Brees' ongoing efforts to reach a long-term contract with the Saints, and also could set a precedent for other players who face the prospect of being named a franchise player multiple times.
If Burbank decides the 44 percent raise would kick in when Brees receives the tag for the third time in his career, the Saints would have to pay him more than $23 million in 2013 if they made him their franchise player a second year in a row. However, if Burbank rules for the NFL and the Saints, then Brees would only be due a 20 percent raise to about $19.6 million.
Attorney Ben Block argued the case for the NFL.
The franchise tag gives NFL teams the ability to maintain exclusive negotiating rights with one player each season. New Orleans designated Brees, 33, its franchise player in March after the club was unable to reach a new long-term extension with the record-setting quarterback before his previous six-year, $60 million contract expired.
Brees and the Saints still have until July 16 to negotiate a new long-term deal. Otherwise, Brees would have the option of signing his franchise tender of about $16.3 million for the 2012 season. He could also sit out, but has said this week he does not intend to do so.