In the eight weeks and one day since the Saints’ 2017 season ended, I’ve been pointing out that, until the team signs quarterback Drew Brees to a new contract, he potentially will become a free agent. As of right now, no contract has been signed.
As of right now, fewer than seven hours remain until Brees officially can entertain, via agent Tom Condon, offers from other teams.
So here’s the question: As teams like the Vikings, Broncos, Jets, and Cardinals prepare to submit offers to one or more other members of an unprecedentedly large class of unrestricted free agent quarterback, are any planning to make an offer to Brees?
Brees has said repeatedly that he’ll remain a Saint. Coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis have expressed similar confidence. But until a deal is in place, Brees will fair game for contract offers, and it’s possible that one or more of the teams mentioned above already have let Condon know that, as of 12:00 p.m. ET on Monday, an alternative offer will be coming.
Why shouldn’t there be alternative offers? Brees is the top free agent available, and a team looking to win right now should be looking to win with Brees, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who has missed only one game to injury in the 12 years since he joined the Saints. If any team is thinking about paying market value to Kirk Cousins over five years, why not offer market value to the 39-year-old Brees over two or three?
The analysis boils down to the difference between whatever the Saints have offered and whatever someone else will offer. Surely, there’s a gap that would be big enough to get Brees to say, “Well, I know I’ve said I’ll be staying with the Saints, but their best offer is simply too low in comparison to how another team values me.”
I’ve been saying for eight weeks and a day that Brees’ repeated proclamations about not leaving New Orleans amount to a test for his current team. Will they take advantage of his comments and lowball him? Or will they pay him what he deserves?
Brees’ unequivocal position on remaining in New Orleans also could be influenced by a desire to ensure that, if he leaves, Saints fans won’t blame him for it. While a certain percentage of the fan base will call him greedy and selfish and worse, others may be inclined to blame the team, if the gap between what the team offers and what another team offers is so obviously different that it would be hard to expect Brees to stay put.
In the end, it still remains likely that Brees will remain where he has been since 2006. The offers that other teams make likely will be the last bit of leverage aimed at squeezing as much as possible out of the Saints.
Regardless, eight weeks and one day ago, no one would have expected it to take this long for a new deal to be done. Now that Brees and the Saints are on the brink of the moment where other teams can formally try to bogart him, anything can happen. Including the thing that would have been unthinkable as Brees walked off the field in Minneapolis on January 14 — that, come March 14, he’ll be returning to Minneapolis to become the team’s new quarterback.