http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/chargers/20051230-9999-lz1s30brees.html Despite buzz, all signs point to Brees staying with Chargers The longer A.J. Smith remains silent, the louder the speculation about what the Chargers general manager will do with his quarterbacks this offseason. Will he sign incumbent Drew Brees to a long-term deal? Will he trade backup Philip Rivers? Will he franchise Brees with the intention of keeping him and Rivers? Or might he franchise Brees and seek to trade him? Each day brings a new set of possibilities, a fresh set of rumors, another pile of manure to be tossed against the wall. Of everything that has been said, the scenario with the least chance of happening is Brees being traded, for a couple of reasons. Study every other team's roster and you'll have a hard time finding more than a half-dozen quarterbacks who are better/more efficient/more productive than Brees. That alone is reason enough to silence trade talks, but as the starting quarterback, Brees usually gets blamed for everything from receivers dropping passes to San Diego skies leaking raindrops. But let's say for the sake of argument that Smith decides the future is Rivers. After all, Smith didn't make the blockbuster trade for Rivers in 2004 because he believed the North Carolina State star would be a marginal quarterback. He saw something special in Rivers, and Rivers has done nothing to change that opinion – if only because he has yet to take a meaningful snap as a pro. Smith also knows that Brees could command greater compensation on the open market because he has won 20 of his last 30 starts, went to the Pro Bowl last season and is a first alternate this season. There would be no shortage of clubs interested in his services. But here's the potential problem for Smith: The Chargers would have a tough time trading Brees without his consent, and over the last two years he has repeatedly stated his desire to remain in San Diego. Brees doesn't have actual no-trade powers, but the current system of free agency makes it awfully difficult for the Chargers to deal him without his blessing. Here's why: If Smith decides Brees isn't the answer, he'll use the "franchise" tag on him in mid-February to retain the quarterback's rights. Such a move would guarantee Brees a one-year contract of about $9.7 million and assure the Chargers of receiving draft-choice compensation should Brees sign with another club as an unrestricted free agent. If the Chargers wanted to trade Brees after franchising him, one of two things would have to happen: They would have to find a team that not only would agree to their trade demands, but also have enough room under the salary cap to immediately absorb his $9.7 million salary. If San Diego can't find a team with enough cap space, it would need Brees to sign a restructured contract that would fit beneath the other team's salary cap to make the deal work. No consent from Brees, no trade. Also, if Brees doesn't immediately sign the franchise tender, any talk about a trade is moot because teams cannot deal players who aren't under contract. Last year, Brees wasted no time in signing the tender because the $8.1 million was more than four times his salary from the previous season. But this offseason, coming off two strong seasons, he might wait to sign the tender because he knows there'll be big money waiting for him even if the Chargers remove the franchise designation after the start of free agency. Bottom line: There's almost no chance of Brees going anywhere next season unless he chooses to. If the Chargers don't offer him a long-term deal, perhaps he'll decide he wants to go to a team that'll show him love as well as money. In that case, he might agree to a trade. More likely, Brees would choose to stay put because of his love for his teammates and his desire to prove the doubters wrong. He is so competitive that you wonder if he could accept someone saying, in essence, that he can't lead the team to a championship. Knowing him, his attitude would be to show management that he can put together another season like 2004, when he threw nearly four times as many touchdown passes as interceptions. Some team would have to offer a sweet deal to Brees and the Chargers for a trade to happen, and even then it might not be enough.