ESPN Insider: Brees could end up on open market

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA
The clock is ticking toward Thursday's deadline for designating franchise and transition players, and in the case of San Diego quarterback Drew Brees, who is coming off surgery to his right shoulder and whose availability for offseason conditioning programs is iffy at best, it will likely strike 12 without the team's using a marker to retain his rights.

But if the Chargers do place a tag on Brees, particularly the transition marker, things could get very interesting.

The transition tag would technically allow Brees, who suffered a torn right labrum in the meaningless season-ending loss to Denver, to shop himself as a free agent, solicit interest from other clubs, and even sign an offer sheet with another team. If he were to sign elsewhere, San Diego would have the right to match the offer sheet, or allow Brees to exit, without any draft choice compensation from his new club.

Simple enough, right? Well, maybe not.

While a transition marker does not guarantee the qualifying offer attached to it, $8.327 million for the quarterback position, the Brees camp feels that in the case of the San Diego starter, the money would, indeed, be guaranteed. The stance is that since Brees signed the guaranteed one-year qualifying offer of $8.078 million as a franchise player in 2005, the guarantee would carry over if the Chargers slap the transition tag on him for 2006. The rationale is that the so-called "principle terms" of an agreement (in this case, the addendum which guaranteed Brees' salary for 2005) move forward with a contract when it is extended.

If the Brees camp is correct in its interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement -- and the matter would probably end up in arbitration if it ever reached the point of contention -- there would be no reason for the injured quarterback not to sign the transition offer, were it made. After all, the transition offer is only $462,000 less for 2006 than the franchise number. And at $8.327, it would still represent a raise for Brees, albeit one of just about 3 percent.

The matter, though, will be moot if the Chargers don't do anything with Brees' contract, and just allow him to go into the unrestricted free-agent market. Despite the Chargers' offer of a long-term deal last week, one believed to be rife with incentives to protect San Diego against the possibility Brees' rehabilitation will last well into camp or beyond, the consensus around the league is that the two sides won't strike a deal and that the five-year veteran will go into free agency. Under that scenario, the onus turns to Brees, who will have to demonstrate to any interested suitors that his surgically repaired shoulder is sound.

Even some people close to Brees, who has played well in his two seasons as the Chargers' starter, feel that will be difficult. Although he is said to be ahead of schedule in his recovery, there is very little chance that Brees will be prepared to throw at full velocity until June or July, just before the start of training camps. By that time, most teams will want to have a handle on their quarterback situations, and Brees could find it tough to locate a landing spot.

That could well play into the strategy of the Chargers if they do, indeed, allow Brees to sample the market. Absent any meaningful action early in the signing period, Brees might be inclined to return to the team he knows best, San Diego, and try to recapture his starting job. If Brees does depart, the Chargers have 2004 first-round draft choice Philip Rivers to whom they can turn. And the Chargers this week restructured the ponderous contract of backup quarterback A.J. Feeley, making it more palatable to keep him around for the next two seasons.