Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis is praising quarterback Drew Brees for taking a team-friendly deal. Which raises this question: Was it really a team-friendly deal?
“We needed to know what Drew was going to count on our [salary] cap this year, what resources are we using because then that gives us the ability to do some other things,” Loomis told the Saints’ official website, via NFL.com. “To Drew’s credit, his number-one goal was to make sure we had an opportunity to improve our roster, keep our roster together and be as competitive as we can be. I’m certainly appreciative of how he’s handled that contract the last couple times because again the most important thing to him is we have a competitive team.”
Brees signed a two-year, $50 million deal, with a fully-guaranteed payment of $25 million in 2020 and a couple of phony-baloney years that reduce the 2020 cap hit. With Philip Rivers and Tom Brady also getting $25 million this year (Brady can earn another $4.5 million in incentives, but he failed to earn a single penny in Patriots incentives during either of the last two years), the Brees contract doesn’t feel team-friendly. Instead, it feels like the going rate for an aging quarterback who may be in the early stages of inevitably losing a footrace with Father Time.
Questions have lingered for two years about Brees’ ability to crank it up and throw it deep, to the point where that task has fallen more recently to Taysom Hill. Now 41, the edge of the cliff could be coming at any time for a player who inevitably will find that his body refuses to do what his brain is trying to tell it to do.
Brees rolled up his leverage and threw it in the trash can when he made it clear that he’d play for the Saints or no one in 2020. Although it’s possible that the Saints extended their best offer to Brees before he decided whether to keep playing, the simple reality is this: Brees wasn’t going to sign with the Buccaneers or the Panthers or anyone else on the team’s regular-season or potential postseason schedule. If the Saints would have been comfortable with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill, they could have moved forward if they’d made Brees an offer that he would have refused.
Of course, a starting quarterback needs to have the kind of contract that ensures he’ll be properly respected in the locker room. Brees, however, has the pedigree, the accomplishments, and the personality to overcome the perceived slight that would have come from, for example, a contract paying $20 million or less in 2020.
Regardless, $25 million isn’t an actual or perceived slight. It doesn’t feel team friendly. It feels fair and appropriate for a franchise quarterback in his 40s or close to it.