Chargers won't tag Brees

The San Diego Chargers have moved the pawn into play. After considering using the transition tag on quarterback Drew Brees, the team will instead continue to talk long-term contract and if he remains unsigned on March 3 - free agency awaits.

The Chargers have all but ruled out the possibility of placing the franchise or transition tag on quarterback Drew Brees, leaving them only two options: signing him to a new contract or letting him hit the free-agent market.

The transition tag was interpreted by the team to be a win-win situation. It would allow them to match any offer and was not guaranteed - or so they thought. But an interpretation from the NFL Management Council has made them evaluate their strategy again.

Brees was franchise tagged in 2005 with a guaranteed $8.078 million salary. Under the Councils interpretation, the tender offer for Brees' transition tag would have to be at 120 percent of his 2005 salary instead of the 2006 quarterback transition number of $8.327 million and because his principle terms of the 2005 franchise tag was guaranteed, Brees' 2006 transition tag could also be considered a guaranteed offer.

That means $9.7 million on the books in either case.

Consideration has been made to have a hearing on the matter but the hearing would likely happen after the date for designation.

General manager A.J. Smith has offered an incentive-laden contract to Brees and Smith and agent Tom Condon have been in discussions.

Condon has said he is moving forward as if Brees was not injured in the final game of the year while Smith has contended that it will have an impact.

Brees suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in the final game of the year and underwent surgery by Dr. James Andrews in Alabama. Had he been healthy, it is conceivable that the Chargers would have franchised him again but will now allow him to test the market if he does not sign a new contract by March 3 - becoming a free agent.

Earlier this week, the Chargers worked out a two-year, $2 million deal for A.J. Feeley. Philip Rivers is entering the third year of a six-year deal.

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