The first issue is that the Saints have Brees locked down for 2012 with the franchise tag, regardless of whatever else happens. He'll make a ton of money, at least $14M. But still, he wants a long term deal with plenty of guaranteed money, not just a one-year contract.
On the other side of the equation, the market has been set pretty clearly for top-tier quarterbacks. Brees is quite squarely among the elite QBs in the league, with guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, both of whom signed deals pretty recently.
Peter King did a quick breakdown of Brees, Brady and Manning since 2006, and it's clear that the three of them have contributed pretty equally in most categories.
King's chart looks like this:
|QB||SB Wins||Games missed||Comp. %||Yds/season||TD-INT||QB Rating||NFL Earnings|
King makes the solid point that the Saints have already gotten an insane bargain, getting nearly identical (in some cases, better) performance out of Brees for $14.3M less than Brady and $25.7M less than Manning over the past 6 seasons.
Now, with Manning's freshly inked 5-year, $96M contract ($18M guaranteed, another $40M virtually guaranteed, details here), Brees has something to point to, when the Saints try to get cheap with him.
Throw in Brady's 4-year extension worth $72M ($48.5M guaranteed), and the Saints are going to have a hard time justifying a lowball offer to Brees.
While the Saints are trying to get credit for looking past Brees' injury history (shoulder) in 2006, they've still gotten a remarkable bargain when all is said and done, and Brees is only 33 at the beginning of this season, younger than both Brady (35) and Manning (36).
No matter what, the Saints are going to have to pay him, and they're going to have to pay him a whole lot of money. He's the cornerstone of their franchise, both on and off the field, and is a vital part of their organization.
It's time for the Saints to stop beating around the bush, and give the man his money. He's earned it, and there's every indication that he'll continue to do so.