Four years ago, Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the highest-paid player in football, with a six-year, $120 million deal. He held the title for roughly six months, before Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco beat the $20 million-per-year average with a deal that pays $20.1 million annually.
This week, Flacco set new records under either standard for assessing contracts, with $22.13 million in new money per year and a total average value from signing of $20.8 million. Now, with Brees four days away from having his cap number spike to $30 million for 2016, the question becomes whether Brees will end up with a better deal than Flacco.
Brees’ 2016 cap number comes from a $19.75 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, and bonus prorations of $10 million. A huge signing bonus coupled with a small base salary could easily create more than $10 million in current cap space. The question becomes how hard will Brees push to get a deal that is worth more than $20.8 million at signing and/or that averages more than $22.13 million in real money?
Sure, he’s 37. But he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and one of the best to ever play. His leverage comes from both forcing the Saints to carry a $30 million cap number for 2016 and from the reality that, because he has been franchise-tagged twice before in his career, it would cost the Saints a whopping $43.2 million to tag him in 2017.
By doing nothing, Brees gets $20 million this year and either a shot at the free-agent market or $43.2 million next year. Under that analysis, he should easily get more than $20.8 million per year under the terms of whatever deal he signs to replace the last year of his current contract.
Then there’s the reality that the quarterback market has barely increased in the past three years, as the salary cap has gone up by more than 25 percent. Someone already should be making $25 million per year. Most believe that someone will be Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. In actuality, Brees has the leverage to get there, if he wants to.
The only question is whether he wants to.