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Brees is only good thing going for Saints, so pay the man already

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Brees broke Dan Marino's passing mark in 2011, throwing for 5,476 yards and 46 TDs. (US Presswire)  
Brees broke Dan Marino's passing mark in 2011, throwing for 5,476 yards and 46 TDs. (US Presswire)  

Nine times out of 10, I don't want the player to get the money. Well, not all the money. Certainly not all the money he's asking for, because professional athletes tend to ask for crazy amounts of money. Tens of millions in a single season. A hundred million or more for the length of a contract. Insane. Nine times out of 10 -- 9,999 out of 10,000 -- I don't want the player to get it.

And then along comes the one exception. His name is Drew Brees.

Him? Him, I want to get paid.

Him, I want to get paid for every possible reason, both good and bad, naughty and nice, reasonable and unreasonable. At the moment the New Orleans Saints have one thing going for them, just one, and his name is Drew Brees. For Saints fans, he's the only reason to have faith the Saints can still reach the 2012 playoffs without their head coach. For an outsider like me, he's the only reason to have faith in the Saints as an organization.

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Drew Brees is that guy for New Orleans, and he wants to get paid. He's asking for crazy amounts of money -- tens of millions in a single season. Something approaching a hundred million or more for the length of the contract. Insane. And almost every time somebody like that asks for something like that, my immediate response is negative. How much? He wants how much? That's shocking. That's repulsive.

But then Drew Brees asks for it, and here's my immediate response: That's fair.

Drew Brees and this particular contract situation, you see, are outliers. Meaning, they're unlike anything we've seen -- so don't compare them to anything we've seen.

On the field Brees is an outlier -- a future Hall of Famer who just broke Dan Marino's 27-year-old record for passing yards in a season. Until Brees last season, we'd never seen a guy throw for more than 5,400 yards. Until Brees in 2011, we'd never seen a guy notch a second 5,000-yard passing season. Six Pro Bowls, top 10 or damn close in career passing touchdowns (ninth), passer rating (seventh), yards per game (first) and yards overall (11th)? Obviously in the prime of his career, since his best season was 2011? Outlier. We've never seen a guy like this seeking a new deal.

And we've never seen a franchise in a situation as dire as the one facing the Saints. The head coach has been suspended for the entire season. The general manager has been suspended eight games. The assistant head coach, and (somehow) interim head coach for 2012, has been suspended six games. Outliers, all of it. Never seen it before. That's the Saints.

They need to make their fans happy, and this is their chance, and they're screwing it up by placing the salary-dragging franchise tag on Brees and letting the calendar pages turn. Drew Brees has been one of the most loyal guys in the league, loyal to the point of going to New York this week and telling the media the NFL hadn't proved to him that the Saints had a bounty system in place. That's nonsense, and it's not going to make people outside New Orleans think kindly of Brees, but he's in New York to act as a representative of the Saints, and he's doing it. He's a loyal guy.

And the Saints are using his loyalty against him.

The Saints have until July 15 to work out the long-term deal that Brees seeks, but they're letting the calendar pages turn. They gave Brees the franchise tag in early March, and here we are in mid-April, with teams beginning offseason workouts. Brees won't attend. Not without a contract. How long does this go on? It goes on until somebody blinks. The New Orleans Saints, skunks of the NFL thanks to that bounty scandal, are playing chicken with the most popular player in franchise history.

Outliers, all of it, even the recent history of New Orleans the city. There was Katrina in 2005, and I'm not including Katrina unfairly. It happened. It happened in 2005. And Drew Brees did show up in 2006 and help the city rebuild itself. Lord knows he didn't do anything by himself, but he was in the army of decent people giving what they could in time and resources to get the city back on its feet. He also gave the city a great quarterback -- the best quarterback in the NFL in 2006, the all-pro winner at the position -- and he helped give the city a winner.

The year before Brees arrived, the Saints went 3-13 in 2005. In 2006, with Drew Brees? The Saints went 10-6. They went to the playoffs. They won a playoff game for just the second time in franchise history. A football team can't solve the heartache caused by Katrina -- but this one tried. And then of course three years later the Saints won the Super Bowl. Brees won Super Bowl MVP, then was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year for what he had done for New Orleans on and off the field.

That was the 2009 season. In 2010 he threw for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdowns. In 2011 it was 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns. The best two-season passing spurt in NFL history? The one Drew Brees just completed.

And now he wants to get paid. The Saints have offered crazy money, but Brees wants something a little crazier. Nine times out of 10, I'd side with the team. This team being the Saints in the throes of the bounty scandal, I find it difficult to side with them -- on anything.

This player being Drew Brees, I find it impossible. So pay the man, New Orleans. Pay him what he wants -- and just be grateful he's not asking for more.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. More importantly, he is 4-0 as an amateur boxer, with three knockouts. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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