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The NFL declined comment on Burbank’s finding or whether it intends to appeal, which the league could do. The Saints also did not return a message seeking comment.

If the Burbank’s ruling ultimately stands, Brees would have little reason to accept a proposed long-term contract from the Saints that did not guarantee him at least $20 million during the first two years.

Also, because Brees‘ salary cap figure would be about $23.5 million under a 2013 franchise tag, the Saints will have more urgency to structure a new long term deal now that would give the club more flexibility under the salary cap in coming seasons.