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The Brees deal guessing game begins

Indianapolis Colts v New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 23: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints takes the field against the Indianapolis Colts prior to a game being held at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 23, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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Whenever an presumably inevitable transaction begins to move closer to its inevitability, members of the media who possibly are trying to enhance their stature inevitably begin reporting that the transaction is “very close.”

It’s now happening regarding the seemingly inevitable contract between the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees. Fueled, apparently, by our recent report that the gap between the two sides isn’t as big as previously reported, reporters are reporting that the deal could be done soon -- with the usual safe-harbor language included in the event it isn’t.

Per multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations, a deal isn’t “very close.” Could something happen in the next few days to break a logjam that has existed for months? Possibly, but highly unlikely. (There’s an example of the safe-harbor language. Still, if a deal is done by Monday, I will be flabbergasted, shocked, and perplexed.)

Recently, interim coach Joe Vitt expressed confidence that a contract at some point will be finalized, explaining that deals of this nature tend to happen at the “23rd hour.” Though it’s unclear when the 23rd hour will arrive, there’s no reason to believe that the bells will begin tolling between now and Monday.

Complicating matters is the grievance filed last week by the NFLPA, seeking clarification as to whether Brees would be entitled to a 20-percent raise or a 44-percent raise, if the Saints use the franchise tag again on Brees in 2013. If the issue is impacting the talks so significantly that Brees believes a ruling from Stephen Burbank is necessary, the two sides likely won’t be able to resolve their differences on this $3.9 million issue without, at a minimum, a hearing before Burbank at which he drops a strong hint as to how he intends to rule.

Thus, this one is no different than the stream of reports we’ve seen in recent years from folks who are willing to slide out onto what they believe to be a sturdy limb, in the hopes of later being able to claim that they were “first.” Whether it’s Brees and the Saints being close or Andrew Luck being the top pick in Indianapolis or Cam Newton being the top pick in Carolina or Peyton Manning definitely signing with the Dolphins unless he has a change of heart (and, yes, someone with much larger ambitions than his current profile was pushing to us the “exclusive” report that Manning would be a Dolphin), some reporters will be unable to resist the temptation to make predictions disguised as reports, based on which way they think the wind is blowing.

In this case, the truth is that Brees and the Saints currently aren’t close to doing a deal. Real progress likely will be made as July 16, the deadline for signing franchise players to multi-year deals, approaches.

UPDATE 10:55 a.m. ET: Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune confirms that a deal is not imminent, as does ESPN’s Ed Werder.