Not too long ago I was killing some time watching the NFL Network. We watch a lot of NFL Network, don’t we, football fans? Anyway, they were airing a program counting down the ten most cursed NFL franchises. Somewhere in the middle were the Saints. The piece included fans wearing bags on their heads, Aaron Brooks throwing the ball in the wrong direction, and even mocked the team for having a cute dog bring the tee to the field for the opening kickoff of a game. Then, the discussion shifted to Super Bowl XLIV. All of the curses for Saints fans seemed to end that day when Payton Manning was intercepted by Tracy Porter and the Saints became World Champions. Since then, the Saints have has two more playoff seasons and came close to winning another Super Bowl last season.
When the Saints walked off the field in San Francisco last January after losing one of the greatest playoff games in the history of the NFL, the taste was bitter but with a kick of optimism. No matter what happened between then and the start of the next season Saints fans knew that they would be one of the teams in the mix to play in the next Super Bowl. A Super Bowl that just happens to be in New Orleans.
Then all hell broke loose. The bounty scandal broke. The team’s integrity was called into question. Coach Sean Payton was suspended by the league for the entire 2012 season. The Saints were stripped of their second round pick at the draft. Tracy Porter and Carl Nicks left the team via free agency. Then Jon Vilma was suspend for the entire season, forced to the sidelines like Coach Payton. Will Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season. The Commissioner denied all the appeals.
Read that last paragraph again. I didn’t make it up. All of that did happen. That would be enough, more than enough, to make it the worst offseason in the history of the National Football League. Unfortunately, I haven’t even mentioned the worst part yet. Drew Brees and the Saints organization couldn’t agree to terms on a long term contract extension. The Saints were forced to use the franchise tag on Brees. Players hate to be franchised. Reports surfaced that Brees was angry. He missed all of the offseason workouts including OTAs and mini camp. As each day passed the nightmare just seemed to get wore and worse.
Drew Brees is the greatest player to ever play for the New Orleans Saints. Not only that, he is the most important player to ever play in the black in gold. A deal HAD to get done. It had to get done in respect to Brees, who had outplayed his last contract and deserved a huge pay day that would set up the next three generations of his family. The deal needed to get done for the City of New Orleans and the fans of the Saints who are still struggling to make it all the way back from the nightmare that was Katrina. Last, the deal needed to get done for the team. In an offseason where so much went wrong, it was time for something to go right.
Unfortunately, with each day that passed, it seemed more likely that Brees was going to be a training camp hold out. Reports suggested that Brees wouldn’t report to camp unless a long term deal was signed. The deadline to get long term deals done with franchised players was getting closer and closer. Could this really happen?
Finally, early on Friday, the Saints and Brees agreed to a five year deal worth 100-million dollars. Brees had earned the richest contract in NFL history (by term) and finally the Saints rewarded him with it. Brees will make a fully guaranteed $40 dollars this year.
“I appreciate the diligence and steadfast efforts by both sides to get this deal done,” Brees told ESPN’s Ed Werder. “I love my organization, team, and the city of New Orleans. Thank you especially to (owners) Gayle and Tom Benson for the opportunity. Now I need to go earn it.”
Saints fans can now exhale. Drew Brees isn’t going to be a hold out. Seriously, exhale Saints fans, you have earned it.