But the man who has become the face of the franchise is now on the verge of a training camp holdout.
If Brees has not signed a long-term contract with New Orleans by Monday’s 4 p.m. EST deadline, the four-time all-pro signal-caller will not sign his franchise tender or report to training camp, according to an ESPN report citing team and league sources.
Under the franchise tag, Brees would make $16.371 million this season and would not be allowed to sign with another team. According to the report, the Saints offered him a deal worth an average of $19.25 million per year, which is slightly higher than the $19.2 million Peyton Manning is getting from Denver. Brees is reportedly requesting a deal worth $20.5 million annually.
But for now, Brees appears willing to hold out into training camp, which begins July 24. Should his holdout extend into the season, he would have until the Tuesday after the 10th regular-season game to sign his tender or he could not play the rest of the season.
An arbitrator ruled last week that if the Saints hit Brees with the tag again in 2013 the team would be forced to give its veteran quarterback a 44 percent raise to about $23.5 million.
Brees, 33, broke the NFL’s single-season record for most passing yards with 5,746 last year. In six years with the Saints he’s been selected to five Pro Bowls and has led New Orleans to the postseason in three consecutive seasons.
For a team already dealing with the fallout from Bountygate, a potential Brees holdout could severely damage the Saints’ hopes of making it back to the playoffs in 2012 — and beyond.