Four years ago, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had plenty of leverage in his contract talks with the team. He parlayed his bargaining power into a five-year, $100 million deal.
Now, Brees has even more leverage.
In addition to a crippling $30 million cap number for 2016, Brees would have an astronomical franchise tender for 2017, thanks to the arbitration case that he won in 2012 that qualifies him for a 44-percent raise on his cap number, via the third lifetime application of the tag. At $30 million for 2016, it’s a cash and cap number of $43.2 million for next year.
With Brees already owed $20 million for 2016, he can plausibly demand $63.2 million over the first two years of a long-term deal. Which would blow the lid off the current quarterback market.
Whether he seeks that much, Brees clearly has the leverage to push for record highs of $20.8 million per year from signing and $22.13 million in so-called “new money,” both of which marks Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco set earlier this month. Earlier this week, I asked Saints coach Sean Payton whether he’s fine with a player saying, “I’ve got leverage and I’m going to use it to the full degree.”
“I think it is, and I think one of the things as a coach, you appreciate that this is a circle that oftentimes or don’t get involved in,” Payton said during a visit to PFT Live. “Yet the good news is that he is under contract for next year. So I’m quite certain that Mickey [Loomis] and Tom [Condon] will explore all the options, cover all their bases and periodically I’ll get a call from Mickey and kind of just understand that that’s something he’s working hard on and we do know this, he’s under contract for next year and we’re excited about moving him forward especially as our quarterback.”
The other side of the coin, of course, is the Tom Brady approach, where the quarterback deliberately leaves money on the table to allow for cap room to build a viable team.
“Those are unique questions and challenges for only a few people that come up once in a while and I don’t think there’s a perfect answer for that,” Payton said. “I know this, Drew is a team guy, there’s no question our players see him as one of our huge leaders and I think that each case is different.”
The unique circumstance here is that Brees has extreme leverage but he’s also 37. The real question for the Saints is whether they’d be willing to use the tag at $43.2 million in 2017 or take their chances with Brees hitting the open market at age 38 for the first time since he left the Chargers and joined the Saints in 2006.
However it all plays out, Payton said he’s optimistic that a new contract will be finalized fairly soon. Whenever it happens, it will be a number that will seem surprising on the surface — unless Brees decides to go the route of Tom Brady and take dramatically less than he could get.