Cool, Brees: Saints QB Says NFL Deal Is at Hand

High-profile player sees an endgame to four-month lockout

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Wednesday said a deal to finalize a new NFL collective bargaining agreement is “very close” to being done, adding that only “a few details” stand in the way of breaking the lockout.

In a Wednesday morning interview with San Diego radio station XX-1090, Brees said that given the players’ willingness to concede on some key revenue issues, the framework of the proposed CBA is fair to all parties.

“We’ve taken a significant setback in overall revenue in terms of what we’ve offered them compared to what we were making,” Brees said. “I feel like there’s a fair deal there—we all do—and it’s time [for the owners] to step up and make a deal.”

The new CBA reportedly offers a simplified revenue-sharing formula, one that would see NFL players lay claim to 48 percent of all dollars taken in by the league. Under the previous agreement, players received 60 percent of all revenues, although that share did not include the $1 billion that owners have looked to reserve as an “expense credit.”

If the new plan is implemented, the players’ share would never dip below 46.5 percent of the total. All told, the NFL rakes in approximately $9.3 billion per season.

Brees spoke to the sports-radio outlet shortly after he and fellow superstar plaintiffs Tom Brady and Peyton Manning issued a joint statement calling for the league to nail down a final agreement with the players.

“We believe the overall proposal made by the players is fair for both sides, and it is time to get this deal done,” the statement read. “This is the time of year we as players turn our attention to the game on the field. We hope the owners feel the same way.”

The three Super Bowl champion QBs are among the 10 players named as plaintiffs in the antitrust suit against the NFL.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello this morning posted the league’s response on his Twitter feed: “We share the view that now is the time to reach an agreement so we can all get back to football and a full 2011 season. We are working hard with the players’ negotiating team every day to complete an agreement as soon as possible.”

What was particularly striking about the Brady, Manning, and Brees statement is that it marked the first time the triumvirate publicly addressed the negotiations. Now in its fourth month, the labor dispute threatens to wipe as much as $3 billion in ad revenue off the books at Fox, NBC, CBS, and ESPN. For its part, the league would forfeit $4 billion in rights fees.

Until a deal is finalized (and a number of outstanding issues remain unresolved, including rookie compensation and the sort of stake retired players will have under the new CBA), it’s anyone’s guess when training camps will open. But owners are hoping to get an agreement completed by July 21.

Upon ratification, the new CBA should extend through the 2021-22 season.

As soon as the CBA is hashed out and everyone catches their collective breath, the league will redouble its efforts to shop its newly proposed slate of eight early-season Thursday night games. While pricing hasn’t been set, insiders say the package could fetch north of $600 million in its first season.

Should both sides hit that July 21 target, the entire season should proceed as scheduled. Many TV executives say the NFL is understandably looking to honor the opening weekend lineup, which includes a New York Giants-Washington Redskins meeting on the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and a cadre of owners, including John Mara of the New York Giants and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, are meeting today in New York with NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith. Both sides also will converge on Minneapolis on July 19 to meet with mediator Arthur Boylan.

While things look decidedly rosier than they did a few weeks ago, the NFLPA would do well to try and keep the loose cannons from firing off any unnecessary salvos at league management. In an upcoming cover story in Men’s Journal, Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison drew a bead on the commissioner, calling Goodell “a crook and a puppet,” before adding, “If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it. I hate him and will never respect him.”

The Harrison profile is adorned with a photo of the All-Pro defender holding a pair of particularly lethal handguns: a Smith & Wesson 460V revolver and an FN Five-seven semi-automatic pistol.