Brees 'ecstatic' after signing franchise tender

SAN DIEGO -- Drew Brees was in an $8 million mood on Friday.

The quarterback signed a one-year contract that more than
quadruples his pay from last year, when he came off the scrap heap
to lead the San Diego Chargers back to the playoffs for the first
time in nine seasons.

The Chargers put the franchise tag on Brees on Feb. 17,
meaning he'll get $8,078,000 next year, or the average of the NFL's
five highest-paid quarterbacks in 2004.

Brees returned from a vacation in Australia late Thursday night
and signed the deal as soon as he could on Friday.

"I was ready and eager to get the thing official," said Brees,
who made $1.56 million in base pay last year.

It wasn't the long-term deal he wants, but it was the next-best

"I'm very happy," Brees said. "I'm ecstatic, the fact I get
to be here for another year and build on the foundation that we've
already kind of set for ourselves. We're only going to get

Brees doesn't seem offended that the Chargers aren't interested
in giving him a long-term deal -- for now, anyway -- or that coach
Marty Schottenheimer has refused to ordain him as the starter for
next year, meaning he'll have to compete with Philip Rivers in
training camp.

"Of course I want to be here, and of course I want a long-term
deal, but the main thing is, I wanted to be here, I wanted to be a
part of this," he said. "I just think we can do something

Brees was all but cast aside last offseason, when the Chargers
were coming off an NFL-worst 4-12 record. Brees was an easy
scapegoat after throwing 15 interceptions and just 11 touchdown
passes, getting benched for five straight games and being yanked
from two others.

General manager A.J. Smith declared that the Chargers needed to
"upgrade" at quarterback, then swung a draft-day deal that
brought highly touted prospect Philip Rivers to town.

But Rivers held out for half of training camp and Brees kept his
job. He threw 27 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions as
the Chargers won the AFC West. Brees was named Comeback Player of
the Year and went to the Pro Bowl.

"I think it's kind of the same situation as last year: Are you
out to prove people wrong?" Brees said. "I'm not out there to
prove people wrong. Is there slight satisfaction in it? Yes. But I
don't want to win the Super Bowl next year and make the Pro Bowl
again and do all that stuff just to prove somebody wrong. I want to
do it because that's what I set out to do from the beginning.

"That seems to always be an issue. There's always somebody that
thinks you can't do it or that it was jut a one-year thing or
whatever. I'm not going to worry about it."

The Chargers say they've cleared some $21 million in salary cap
space for next season, which will allow them to keep both Brees and
Rivers. Those two alone will count for nearly $11 million under the
cap next season.

"I want to take every snap next year," said Brees, who
succeeded in keeping Rivers on the bench for virtually all of 2004.

The Chargers were just 1-5 last season against playoff teams,
including a 20-17 overtime loss at home to the New York Jets in a
wild-card game. Their schedule will be considerably tougher next

"The challenge for us is, don't get complacent on that 12-4
record," Brees said. "We need to build on that. Our schedule
looks to be a bit tougher. We've got a lot of playoff teams we're
going up against. It's going to be a huge challenge for us, but one
I definitely think we're up for."

Also Friday, the Chargers re-signed free safety Jerry Wilson, an
unrestricted free agent, and center David Brandt, a restricted free
agent, to two-year deals.

Wilson will have to compete for his job with Bhawoh Jue, who
signed a three-year deal Thursday reportedly worth $4.5 million.