Cubs

Why does Drew Brees remain unsigned?

611536.jpg

Why does Drew Brees remain unsigned?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints still must close a significant gap in guaranteed money if they are to agree on a five-year contract worth about 100 million by Monday's looming deadline for a long-term deal, said a person familiar with the negotiations. The sides were more than 10 million apart in the guaranteed portion of the contract on Wednesday, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing. 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 the quarterback's plans say that remains the case. Brees has said he does not want to play under a one-year contract with no long-term security in the coming seasons. He did it once before, with costly consequences, when he played under the franchise tag for San Diego in 2005 and wound up with a career-threatening injury to his throwing shoulder. That injury led him to accept a six-year, 60 million deal with New Orleans in 2006, which left him playing for well below market value during the past few seasons, even as he was setting club and league records. Brees had hoped that an extension would be done before 2011, but when it was not, he decided against holding out and played without the security of a long-term contract. He remained healthy the entire season and passed for an NFL single-season record 5,476 yards. Brees considered that an act of faith in the Saints, and now he is expecting that faith be returned in the form of a contract that not only would give him the highest average annual salary in the game, but also guarantee a significant portion of his salary. In the NFL, players can be cut before their contracts expire, and while signing and subsequent year option bonuses are guaranteed, base salaries are not. General manager Mickey Loomis has said he understands that Brees' contract is the most important deal on which he has worked in his front office career. However, he has stressed that such a deal, with the potential to affect the team's ability to sign other players, must be entered into with caution. Both sides have offered proposals that would give the Saints more flexibility under the NFL's salary cap in the next three years than New Orleans would have if Brees played for the franchise tag. In those proposals, a relatively low base salary number in the early years would be offset by guaranteed signing and option bonuses that are pro-rated, for salary cap purposes, over the life of the contract. If the Saints were to use their franchise tag on Brees again in 2013, they would have to pay him about 23.5 million, which represents a significantly higher salary cap figure than what either side's five-year proposal calls for in that season. Such a contract structure would increase the salary cap burden of Brees' deal significantly in the final years, but the salary cap likely will be higher by then. The current salary cap is about 120 million, but could rise substantially under a new NFL TV deal that will begin in 2014. Under the league's current labor agreement, players are supposed to receive about 55 percent of TV revenues. If the two sides can narrow their differences on the guarantees, the remaining portions of the contract should be easier to figure out. Both sides are working from a framework of five years. The difference in the annual average pay is about 1.25 million, with the Saints' last offer at about 19.25 million and Brees' last proposal at about 20.5 million. However, it is not yet clear how much Brees is willing to come down from his annual figure, which some in his camp have argued is low, based on past trends. Peyton Manning recently signed a five-year, 96 million deal, which averages 19.2 million. Manning is three years older than Brees and did not play last season because of neck surgery. Meanwhile, teams have had a history of offering new contracts to elite players which represent annual multimillion dollar increases over the previous top contract for a player at the same position. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson's last contract averages 16.2 million a year, which exceeds the previous benchmark deal of Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald by more than 1 million per year. Even major contracts can be negotiated quickly under deadline pressure, and the types of differences the Saints and Brees have now can be resolved in less than a day, so there remains plenty of time to work out a deal. However, if the deadline passes without a long-term contract, Brees could still hold out for a one-year contract worth more than the current franchise tag. Brees also could hold out until the Saints put it in writing that they will not use the franchise tag on him again next season, allowing him to test the open market.

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

glanville_oct_21.jpg
USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

cam_ward_ap.jpg
AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.