New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees gained leverage in his contract battle with the team by way of today's ruling by arbitrator Stephen Burbank. The ruling clarified vague language of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on the franchise tag. At the heart of the matter is the wording:
Article 10, Section 2(b) — “Any Club that designates a player as a Franchise Player for the third time”
The NFL Players Association and Brees argued that the wording means a player can't be franchised three times in his career regardless of team. The NFL argued that the franchise tag was club related and the same team could franchise a player three times in his career.
Brees was franchised by the San Diego Chargers in 2005 counts as the first time he was franchised. This means the Saints franchising Brees this year counts as the second time and if the two sides don't reach a deal, next year would be the third time Brees was franchised in his career.
This gives leverage to Brees for salary cap reasons because his salary would would be 144 percent of this year’s number. That number would put the Saints over the cap next season causing the team to have to cut salary just to keep Brees.
By no means am I a salary cap expert but there are ways for the Saints to pay Brees and make the cap hit lower. I have heard on ESPN and NFL Network people more familiar (without going into great details) say the lower cap hit is possible (it's not great TV to bore the audience with accounting).
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, wrote a detailed article on the franchise argument that might be more helpful than my limited understanding of the CBA and salary cap issues. Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports also writes a detailed article on the subject as well.
Still, a potential mess can be avoided if the Saints and Brees can come up with a long term deal before July 16.