This is the first in a series of scouting reports on key players who will become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised by March 5.
News: Brees, PFW's highest-rated potential free agent, and the Saints have been repeating it over and over again — both sides expect him to be with the Saints in 2012 and beyond. Yet, there is still no deal in place. Brees decided to table contract negotiations, which had begun before the season, with the team late in the regular season in an effort to prevent his situation from becoming a distraction. Getting a long-term deal done with Brees before March 5 would allow the Saints to use the franchise tag on one of their other top impending free agents — OG Carl Nicks or WR Marques Colston — but the tag will likely be placed on Brees if there isn't an agreement by the franchise-designation deadline. The tag number for quarterbacks is estimated to be $14-16 million. GM Mickey Loomis and Brees' agent, Tom Condon, could eventually work out a contract that makes Brees one of the league's highest-paid players. Condon, who negotiated a five-year, $90 milion deal for Peyton Manning last year, said earlier this month that he was baffled by the slow pace of negotiations, and there have been no indications of a major breakthrough in talks since then. Brees may be considering whether to give the team a hometown discount that would give the Saints the flexibility to keep players like Colston and Nicks, or to make the absolute most, financially speaking, of what will likely be his only opportunity to become one of the league's highest-paid players.
Notes: The 11-year veteran has been chosen for six Pro Bowls (all but one as a Saint). He's a four-time All-Pro since 2006, when he signed with New Orleans and, along with head coach Sean Payton, helped transform a franchise that had one playoff win in its 38-year history prior to their arrival. Brees was coming off a surgery to repair a career-threatening 360-degree tear of the labrum and a partial tear of the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder when the Saints signed him as a free agent from the Chargers, and the Saints' gamble paid off. He was the MVP of the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance — a win over the Colts in 2010 — and he's coming off one of the best individual seasons by a quarterback in league history. Brees, 33, threw for an NFL-record 5,476 yards in '11, becoming the first to break Dan Marino's 27-year-old record. He completed an NFL-record 71.2 percent of his passes, breaking his own mark, which he set in '09, and had a career-high 110.6 passer rating. Brees is the only quarterback in league history with two 5,000-yard seasons.
Positives: Great touch, accuracy and anticipation. Very quick release. Has quick feet to elude pass rushers and make plays on the run. Uses his eyes well. Will look off receivers and manipulate safeties. Extremely productive. Has rare intangibles. An extension of the coaching staff on the field. Good poise and decision making. Smart and a natural, commanding leader. Hardworking and intensely focused. Tough and competitive. Impeccable character. Proven ability to overcome tremendous adversity.
Negatives: Doesn't have great size. Considered short for his position. Has good, not great, arm strength. Will force the ball into tight windows, and it doesn't always pan out. Gets greedy at times, trying to extend plays and make something out of nothing.
Risk factor: There's a reason a deal of the magnitude Brees is looking for doesn't come together quickly, even for someone as valuable as Brees is to the Saints. There's a risk anytime a team makes a player one of the league's highest-paid, but few in the league have been as worthy of such a commitment as Brees is. At age 33, Brees appears to be getting better, not wearing down.
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