Although the tender immediately counts against the 2005 cap, the Chargers have more than $21 million to absorb such a blow.
The Chargers currently hold the upper hand with the move. They have ensured that Drew Brees will not be able to sign with another team and essentially get away for free. After a Pro Bowl season that saw him help turnaround a 4-12 team and lead them into the playoffs with a 12-4 record, Brees would have hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team he wanted.
By placing the franchise tag on Brees, the Chargers can now explore trade avenues, keep him for one year or sign him long-term, or look to deal Philip Rivers – the latter being the most unlikely scenario.
The initial problem for Brees is he wants a long-term deal. He has repeatedly expressed desire to be locked up for a number of years and his value may never be higher.
He was voted the Comeback Player of the Year, earned a Pro Bowl nod, was voted the Most Inspirational Player and MVP by his teammates, leading the Chargers to their first playoff appearance since the 1995 season.
His stats included 27 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions, the first quarterback in franchise history to have more than twenty touchdown passes and less than ten interceptions.
"I want a long-term deal, because I feel like I'm the guy," Brees said during Pro Bowl week in Hawaii.
While Brees is not averse to signing the franchise marker, it will be interesting to see what agent Tom Condon advises his client to do. Condon realizes the value of Brees at this time and that could pave the way for a trade. There are plenty of teams looking for a quarterback and rather than taking a chance on a player in the draft, they could opt for stability and a known commodity.
Coming out publicly with such a sentiment could put the ball back in Brees' court in a sense. If other teams know that he will not sign the tender, it may lower the asking price.
Trading Brees would be another bold move for general manager A.J. Smith, who has not shied away from making the tough decision. He has also proven he can get maximum value in any trade and won't shy away from a match of words through the media.
With the team coming off a playoff appearance, the fans are hungry for more. The team is behind Brees and the leaders on the team would definitely be disappointed if Brees was on the move. If Rivers were to falter, it could start a revolt within the team and in the stands.
The upside, however, is another high draft choice. If they were able to land an additional first round pick, they would have three in 2004 and set themselves up nicely for the future.
They would also ensure that they have whatever player obtained in the deal for more than the one year deal a franchise tender gives Brees. Having a player contribute four years down the road is quite appealing when building a competitive team.
For now, the Chargers have simply given Brees a one-year tender. Where they go from here is anyone's guess but the situation will likely be wrapped up before the draft in April.
Chargers franchise quarterback Drew Brees
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