The Saints and quarterback Drew Brees could have (and maybe should have) worked out a new contract before the start of the new league year in March. An extension would have reduced the player’s $30 million cap number for 2016, and it would have ensured that Brees will remain in New Orleans for years to come, most likely until he retires.
They didn’t, and the clock is now ticking on the possibility of a deal not being finalized before the start of the regular season, when Brees pulls the plug on negotiations. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports recently pondered several aspects of the situation, citing multiple named sources who have pegged a Brees extension in the neighborhood of $95 million to $100 million over four years. Based on numbers available to PFT, a $100 million extension over four years would set a new record high for “new money” ($25 million per year) and total value at signing ($23.5 million annually).
The problem comes from determining how much of the contract will be fully guaranteed at signing. If, as Robinson notes, Brees declines significantly in 2016, the Saints would potentially be stuck with the deal through 2018 or so, if $65 million or more is fully guaranteed.
If Brees doesn’t decline, he’ll emerge from the 2016 season with the ultimate hammer. As PFT has mentioned a time or two over the past few months, the fact that Brees was tagged once in San Diego and once before by the Saints means that, if the Saints use the franchise tag on him in 2017, the tender amount would be determined by multiplying his 2016 cap number by 44 percent.
That’s $43.2 million. For one year.
It means that Brees most likely would have his value determined by what another team would pay. While there’s a chance that Brees would encounter a Ryan Fitzpatrick-style marketplace in which no one else offers anything close to what the Saints will pay, there’s also a chance that a team like the 2009 Vikings will see Brees as a late-career Brett Favre, who in his first year in Minnesota nearly eked out a Super Bowl berth in an epic NFC title game against Brees and the Saints.
Fitzpatrick didn’t draw significant offers in part because his presence won’t sell tickets, PSLs, jerseys, and other stuff. Brees would likely move the needle at the cash register — and he could help turn an otherwise talented team into an immediate contender. Here’s a guess (and it’s just a guess): The Jets, the Dolphins, the Bills, the Browns, the Broncos, the Bears, and/or the Cardinals each could have interest, depending on where things stand after 2016.
Much of it depends on how Brees performs this year. The question for now is whether the Saints are willing to assume the risk of Father Time’s inevitable victory over Brees coming in 2016 or beyond. If the Saints guess wrong by paying Brees, they’ll be stuck with him beyond his natural expiration date. If they guess wrong by not paying him, his expiration date could arrive when he’s in someone else’s refrigerator.