Citing three league sources, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been defining Drew Brees as a "very good", not "great" quarterback when asked to explain why it's taking so long to sign Brees to a contract extension.
The Saints have until 4 p.m. ET on Monday, March 5 to either sign Brees to a multi-year extension or use the franchise tag to retain negotiating rights. The franchise tender for a quarterback in 2012 is reportedly worth around $14.5 million. Recent contracts for top quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have averaged $18 million per season, with Michael Vick signing a six-year, $100 million extension ($16.667 million) last August. Eli Manning ($16.25 million) and Phillip Rivers ($15.3 million) round out the top five annual salaries at the quarterback position.
According to Cole, the Saints and Brees' agent, Tom Condon of CAA Football (who negotiated both of the Manning contracts), are over $5 million per year apart on contract talks, which could require Saints owner Tom Benson intervening to get a deal done.
If the Saints need to use the franchise tag on Brees, they're all but certain to lose Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks and No. 1 wide receiver Marques Colston to free agency. A long-term extension for Brees would enable the club to use their franchise tag on Nicks ($9.447 million) or Colston ($9.443 million).