|Drew Brees looks unlikely to bend on his demands for $60 million in guarantees. (US Presswire)|
As we head into what could well be a defining weekend for some NFL superstars, the progress between most franchise players and their respective teams is slow going. Conversations with execs and agents and sources with knowledge of the negotiations reveal a climate where perhaps only three or four deals will actually get struck before Sunday's deadline to extend these players.
At this point it appears as if the bulk of this group will be playing out the year on the tender. Of course, this is a deadline-driven business and the tenor of talks could improve or ramp up as Monday approaches, but I don't get an overwhelming sense there are a bunch of deals on the cusp of completion. In fact, in most cases much work would have to be done to strike an agreement.
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Drew Brees remains the biggest name, and other general managers can't fathom this dragging past the weekend. They feel like the Saints must swallow hard and eat the $21 million a year and $60 million guaranteed and retain arguably the greatest quarterback in the game for the bulk of his career. I still believe this gets done, but it very well could go down to the wire.
League sources said there has been considerable progress between the Bears and Matt Forte as well. There are still issues to hash out regarding the average per year on the deal over the first three years, and how it could compare to say Marshawn Lynch's new deal, but there has been movement on what the deal might look like over five years. While this prognosis looks promising, sources said there is still a stalemate between Baltimore and its star runner, Ray Rice. It would take a major reversal over the weekend to get this kick-started.
Raiders safety Tyvon Branch is the closest of all this group to a deal, with league sources saying major progress was made late last week. It's a matter of when, and not if, he gets a new deal. The timing of that deal could spur 49ers safety Dashon Goldson to a new deal as well, especially should Branch sign in time because his contract figures to be used as part of Goldson's template.
A source with knowledge of the Patriots' talks with receiver Wes Welker put it at "50/50" whether they can reach a deal. They still have a pretty significant gap in terms of guaranteed money to bridge. Talks with the Chiefs and receiver Dwayne Bowe have gone nowhere, really, according to sources, and there doesn't appear to be much impetus to securing a longer deal now.
Likewise, the Cowboys are content to let linebacker Anthony Spencer play it out another year to assess his overall worth. The Lions and defensive lineman Cliff Avril have had plenty of dialogue but some philosophical differences about how he fits into their pay scale. It would take a major swing in those talks to foresee a deal as it stands right now.
Brent Grimes could prove tricky for the Falcons to tie up right now as well. There is scant chance of anything real developing between tight end Fred Davis and the Redskins, and the only way any sort of multi-year deal is struck would be if he took a decidedly team-friendly deal.
And I'd be very surprised if any of the three kickers got long-term deals. The more recent dialogue between the Jags and Josh Scobee hasn't changed much, and this could end up being a situation where he's franchised again a year from now. While some point to Matt Prater's deal here -- the Broncos kicker recently signed a long-term deal getting off the franchise tag -- the reality is Scobee far outperforms Prater.
According to Scouts Inc stats, of all kickers who also kick off, Scobee's field-goal percentage was 92 percent, ranking first, while Prater's was 76 percent, ranking 23rd in that group. These sides could be heading back to the franchise tag in 2013, but the reality is tagging any player a third time means paying him the quarterback franchise tag that year, so Scobee has considerable leverage because he would be a top commodity whenever he hit the market with his track record.