You read earlier today about former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sean Gilbert and his strong feelings about the situation surrounding Saints QB Drew Brees. As the last player to sit out an entire year in protest of the franchise tag, Gilbert has more than earned his bona fides on this topic.
It’s been 15 years since Gilbert battled the franchise tag, sat out a year, then proved it was worth it. And he still hasn’t warmed up to the concept of the tag, which was, once again, part of the newest collective bargaining agreement. No, his serious opinions weren’t only for Brees.
Want to hear Gilbert’s thoughts on the franchise tag?
On his dealings with the franchise tag: “I wasn’t the highest player on my team when I was there. I just did my job. And it was almost like, ‘Unfortunately, you did your job well, and we don’t want to compensate you for that.’ … What players don’t understand is, you’re on your way out when you walk in. They don’t get this business. (Owners) are not always put in the easiest position in trying to accommodate the player and accommodate the coaches to continue to win. It’s not always easy for the organizations. But in a Drew Brees situation, you have to scratch your head.”
On how his situation compares with that of Brees: “I mean, I’m not trying to ‘big’ Drew Brees up. He’s done that by the way he’s played. At the time when I played, I topped out. I was dominating at the time I was playing. I deserved to be paid what I was getting paid. And I never asked for all of the money. I wanted what was fair for me. I didn’t ask to be the highest paid, but I wasn’t going to be the lowest paid. Not taking double teams every single play. I got to do the work of two-and-a-half men and get paid half the price as the best players — that’s not fair. At the end of the day for me, I said, ‘You know what? For the sake of my life and my future and what I am, I’m a man and the decision I’m making, I can live with.’ And I took the chance to never play again.“
On the realities of the business: “We bust our butt out there. We put ourselves out there for you to say, ‘Good job or bad job.’ But if I’m getting paid what I’m worth, it works for everybody. Because guess what? At the end of the year, you don’t like the job I did, you can fire me. You don’t have any team coming back to a player and saying, ‘You played great, we’re going to give you an increase.’ But as soon as you have a down year — you know? I think we’re going to have to ask you to take a pay cut. If I’m running a team, I would definitely run it different. I understand you can’t make everybody happy. But I think Pittsburgh has the best blueprint, as far as how you structure a team, what you’re looking for in ballplayers, and them understanding the family atmosphere and being part of a franchise.“
On the problems with the franchise tag: “The problem with that franchise tag is, it’s not appropriate. It’s not put in the right place. I mean, you’re tying a guy down that’s earned his right to go into the market. If there’s another team, you’re restricting him from securing his future based on his performance. And I always tell guys, ‘You’re getting paid, but you’re not getting paid for what you’re gonna do, you’re getting paid for what you’ve done. You’ve proven you can play at a certain level. You gotta look at how you’re being viewed. You have to see yourself in a certain way to maximize your value.’ A lot of guys, they don’t know. They don’t know their value. They just let the agent do the thinking. It’s unfortunate. The game is not fair. I used to tell my GM… ‘This marriage is one way. And I’m not going to divorce it, it’s gonna divorce me.’ “