Drew Brees, NFLPA win franchise-tag arbitration hearing

Brees has several million reasons to celebrate Tuesday. (US Presswire)

Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of Drew Brees and the NFLPA on Tuesday, ruling that Brees' current franchise tag counts as the second tag of his career and giving him more leverage in negotiations with the Saints over a long-term deal. CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman confirmed the report.

The news was first reported by Chris Mortensen of ESPN. The union contended that since Brees was previously given the franchise tag by the Chargers after the completion of his rookie deal in 2005, the Saints decision to use the tag after 2011 counted as the second such time that the tag was used. Burbank agreed, and it gives the Saints just one more opportunity to use the tag, if Brees remains unsigned.

"We are very pleased that that the arbitrator agreed with the NFLPA that the correct interpretation of the 'third time' Franchise Player designation in the CBA applies across clubs, and a player's rights will not be unfairly hindered if different clubs designate him as a Franchise Player during his career," the NFLPA said in a statement. "The arbitrator properly rejected the NFL’s strained interpretation of the CBA language, which ignored the fact that a Franchise Player designation is a narrow exception to the overall free agency structure. This ruling will help all Franchise Players in the future. 

"We are very happy that Drew Brees has clarification on this matter, and we hope that it facilitates a successful negotiation for Drew and the Saints."

This won't change the amount of money that Brees is guaranteed in 2012 (should he sign his tender, of course), but it does change negotiations for a long-term deal in advance of the July 16 deadline to sign franchise tag players. Now Brees has two cap numbers -- $16.371 million in 2012 and $23.574 million in 2013 -- in play when discussing a deal with the Saints.

The $16.371 million is Brees current tender amount. A third tag would bump up his salary 144 percent, instead of 120 percent for a second tag, which is where the $23.574 million number comes into play.

The club loses some leverage with the franchise tag because they would then pay him nearly $40 million in guaranteed money for two years if they used their two franchise tags in subsequent years.

That's not likely to happen though, and this ruling should pave the way for a new long-term deal for Brees. This is because Burbank's ruling sets the baseline for which the Saints and Brees' agent Tom Condon can negotiate.

As CBSSports.com's Jason LaCanfora recently pointed out, the outcome of the union and Brees winning this is that it "becomes more likely [Brees] gets $20 million per season" on a new deal with the Saints.

LaCanfora also reported that the NFL can appeal this ruling and that appeals generally are an expected part of this process.

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