Drew Brees has finally gotten paid and the entirety of Who Dat Nation can now let out a huge sigh of relief. The New Orleans Saints can now get back to business with their best offensive player under contract and are eager to get to work.
It certainly took a lot though. The Saints and Brees were unable to come together until they agreed upon an amount of $100 million for five years. This deal makes Brees the richest quarterback in the NFL and to put it bluntly, is an insane amount of money for any one NFL player to make.
Right or wrong, the Saints desperately need Brees. Not only is he one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but his leadership is going to be necessary with Bountygate threatening to put an end to the Saints recent dominance. By signing Brees and avoiding a lengthy holdout, the Saints have restored hope to their franchise and made all parties involved very happy.
That is not the case with five other NFL players and their respective teams. The deadline to reach their deals is less than 24 hours away, meaning there is very little time for negotiations. Some cases could even lead to nasty holdouts and more negative offseason news for the team involved.
So with franchise tag deadline staring us all in the face, I want to look at several of the unsigned franchise players' importance to their respective teams. While the amount of negotiations varies for each team, several teams are really in a jam as they've somehow allowed irreplaceable players to become disillusioned with them.
Mess up this period of negotiations and these players could be one season away from leaving in free agency.
5. Cliff Avril, DET, DE.
The Detroit Lions are one of those teams that could really use some good news this offseason thanks to the arrests that seem to be happening on a monthly basis. Well, they can't expect to get any from their franchise player, Cliff Avril.
Avril recently said that he is not getting a good vibe on a potential Lions deal. It's a sign of how serious things have become as Avril's agent Brian Mackler has been locked in a stalemate with the Lions for months now.
What's different about Avril's case is that he has expressed willingness to play under the $10.6 million tender. While that should relieve Detroit fans, it's fair for Avril to want more after last season when he shook off injury concerns by playing in all 16 games. He also produced 11 sacks and six forced fumbles, putting up numbers that nearly got him to his first Pro Bowl.
Avril is one of the few players still on the roster from the winless 2008 team, so he has a deeper appreciation for Detroit's recent turnaround. Although their defensive line would be fine with just Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Avril would still be missed. And with the recent success of teams with good pass rushers, it would likely be best for Detroit to hold onto him.
4. Dwayne Bowe, KC, WR.
The Kansas City Chiefs have been noticeably quiet about most of their offseason dealings. This includes the contract drama with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
Like in Welker's case, it seems unlikely that Bowe and the Chiefs will reach a deal before the deadline. Both sides seem content to hold their ground, which has resulted in little news or even rumors coming out of Kansas City.
It's kind of a big deal should the Chiefs let Bowe walk next offseason. On paper at least, he is by far their best player at the wide receiver position. Admittedly, there are possible future receiving studs there in Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston, but even their staunchest fans will agree that those two players are unproven.
Thankfully they'll still have Bowe for the full 2012 season as he is not expected to hold out at all. This can give the Chiefs the opportunity to see if Baldwin can become a No. 1 receiver. They can also monitor Bowe's play level and decide if they want him back in 2013.
3. Dashon Goldson, SF, FS.
Talks have reportedly stalled between the San Francisco 49ers and Dashon Goldson. This is a shame for both parties as Goldson was among the best defensive players to be struck with the franchise tag this offseason.
In 2012, Goldson put together a Pro Bowl season as one of the many star players on San Francisco's fearsome defense. He finished second in the NFL with six interceptions while also getting a respectable 67 tackles.
Though upset with the situation, Goldson has already accepted that he could have to play the 2012 season under a $6.2 million tender. Still he's expressed desires for long-term security as opposed to a brief one-year deal. This is especially true since as a fourth-round draft pick, Goldson has never received a big-money deal; his only previous deal was a cheap one-year, $1.2 million contract last season.
Honestly, the 49ers defense is so stacked that they could potentially be all right without Goldson. Undoubtedly his presence would be missed in the 49ers secondary although cornerbacks Chris Rogers and Tarell Brown could still provide lots of interceptions. Still, it would be best if the 49ers and one of their defensive players are able to come to terms.
2. Matt Forte, CH, RB.
Besides Brees' recently ended holdout, this has got to be the most contentious holdout this offseason. Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears have not gotten along well this offseason, bringing up all sorts of trade rumors.
Ultimately those have all come and gone, still leaving Forte in a Chicago uniform. Now as the deadline looms ominously, NFL Network has reported that Forte is extremely close to a new Bears contract. Forte is reportedly planning to spend the weekend on the phone with Chicago's front office in a last ditch effort to get the contract done before the deadline.
In some ways it feels a little odd that with all the drama between the Bears and Forte that the end result could be a contract. Forte wants close to $20 million guaranteed, which is the market value set by players like LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster. This is significantly more than the $7.7 million franchise tag that Forte will play under if a deal is not reached.
If for some reason a deal isn't reached, Forte could potentially hold out through some of training camp. The Bears would admittedly suffer without him, although new acquisition Michael Bush has shown that he can handle starting running duties. Regardless of whether there's a deal though, Forte's future with the Bears is worth watching as he has admitted that the process has given him some scars.
Whether or not those scars prove to be too much for him to stay in Chicago remains to be seen.
1. Ray Rice, BAL, RB.
Although Matt Forte is extremely important to the Bears offense, he is not quite on the level of Ray Rice yet. Mostly this is due to time missed for injuries as Forte has proven himself very capable during his brief four-year career.
Rice hasn't missed a game for three years and he essentially is the Baltimore Ravens offense. Not only is he the franchise's leading rusher in the last three seasons, but Rice has also gotten over 60 receptions in each of those seasons. It is very telling that the Ravens were 1-3 in games where Rice had 10 or less carries in the 2011 season.
Like so many other players in this situation, Rice claims to be optimistic about negotiations. In reality though there has been no progress made. Should a deal not be reached, Rice won't play at the McCoy or Foster level and instead will take in $7.7 million this season.
Rice has said the right things about not holding out, so Ravens fans should expect to see him before the regular season. That is a very good thing given the uncertain state of the Ravens backfield without Rice, which includes two second-year players and unproven rookie Bernard Pierce. Still, it would be very disappointing if no deal is reached, as the possibility of Rice's departure next season will be raised and could potentially be a distraction for them this season.