Chargers speak dollars and sense

The San Diego Chargers operate like a retail store under general manager A.J. Smith. There is no haggling allowed and the price they put on the merchandise, or in this case the players, is what they believe is fair market value.

If the distribution unit does not like the price – they can simply find another vendor to deal with.

Enter Drew Brees and his situation with the club.

"I know all of the focus has been on Drew Brees," Smith smartly said. "Our proposals have not been acceptable to this point. He wants a long-term contract. We want him to have a long-term contract.

"We have a value on a player and they have a value and we are just not agreeing to terms."

Last year, the Chargers placed the franchise tag on Drew Brees after his Pro Bowl season but a torn labrum has shattered his retail value in the team's eyes as they ruled out tagging him last week.

They have since submitted an offer to agent Tom Condon but that proposal has been shot down.

With the Chargers maintaining a hard line stance it could pave the way for Brees to go elsewhere when free agency opens. And he is not alone.

Smith listed seven names: Justin Peelle, Bob Hallen, Jamar Fletcher, DeQuincy Scott, Reche Caldwell, Ben Leber and Drew Brees.

"They are all free to test the market," the GM said. "We will stay in touch throughout the process. We have had dialogue with all players."

Brees, who expects to begin throwing again in May, will become a free agent on March 3 if the two sides cannot reach a deal and Smith continued his hard line stance in negotiations.

It was basically laid out that Brees should accept the deal being offered or count on looking for work elsewhere in 2006.

"We are pretty firm in what we believe," said Smith. "We are going to do in what is the best interest of the San Diego Chargers."

Ironically, it was a fluke injury that keeps the gap wide between the sides. Had Brees made it through the year unscathed he probably would have gotten the deal he wanted.

But that did not happen and memories of the injury linger, despite Brees saying he is ahead of schedule.

"We have some medical concerns," Smith said. "I will leave it at that."

Pressed further, he responded the same way. Brees was a hot commodity in San Diego but may not be sold in a store near you – the Chargers value on him has decreased and the margins are slimmer. That has opened the door to free agency and Brees' exit after six years.

If Brees does not re-sign, Philip Rivers will assume the starting nod of the Chargers. With the team producing winning seasons in back-to-back campaigns, there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform.

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