Looming|Brees wins ESPY for record-breaking performance

Published 12:48 pm Friday, July 13, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees made an appearance at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night, and on the red carpet, rolled out for the various sports stars and celebrities in attendance, said he still believed that he would sign a new long-term deal by Monday.

“I’m an eternal optimist, so I’m still very confident a deal will get done,” Brees said. “I think I’ve been around this league long enough to understand how this works at times. In a lot of cases, it does go down to the wire, and you need a stopping point in order to bring everyone together and make sure it can get done.”

The All-Pro quarterback has until 3 p.m. on Monday to sign a long-term contract with the Saints. If he does not, he can either negotiate a one-year deal or opt to sit out some or all of the season.

Brees took home the ESPY for Record-Breaking Performance of the Year and was also nominated for Best NFL Player. He broke Dan Marino’s single season passing record by nearly 400 yards, finishing with 5,476 on the season. In 1984, in just his second season, Marino threw for 5,084 yards, a record that would stand for 27 years.

Brees and the Saints still must close a significant gap in guaranteed money if they are to agree on a five-year contract worth about $100 million.

The sides were more than $10 million apart in the guaranteed portion of the contract on Wednesday.

The stakes are high for both sides and the negotiations have lasted for months, including long gaps in communication between the two camps.

Brees, who is 33 and entering his 12th season, has never before had the chance to negotiate a contract on par with the elite quarterbacks of the game. The Saints, meanwhile, risk alienating the best quarterback in franchise history, not to mention their fan base, by failing to make an offer to his satisfaction by Monday – the deadline for players with the franchise tag to sign long-term deals.

Several months ago, Brees first raised the possibility that he would not report to the opening of training camp if all that was on the table at that time was the one-year franchise tag of about $16.3 million. People familiar with Brees’ plans say that remains the case.