How Drew Brees' return impacts Tom Brady, Patriots and NFL free agency

Nick Goss
NBC Sports Boston

The New Orleans Saints should feel confident at least one of their three quarterbacks will return for the 2020 NFL season.

Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees announced Tuesday on Instagram that he's coming back for what will be his 20th pro season. Brees didn't explicitly say he's returning to the Saints, but the language in his Instagram post makes it sound like New Orleans is the likely destination.

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How does Brees' decision impact Tom Brady and the New England Patriots as free agency nears? Let's take a look.

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1. Will Teddy Bridgewater and/or Taysom Hill leave the Saints?
It's unreasonable to expect Brees, Bridgewater and Hill all to be back in New Orleans next season. The Saints, according to OvertheCap.com, have the sixth-lowest salary cap space in the league and we don't yet know what Brees' 2020 salary will be. 

Bridgewater went 5-0 and played quite well in Brees' absence in 2019. He deserves to be a starter somewhere, and according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, there could be a robust market for the young quarterback.

Hill has been used in a variety of roles for the Saints, including quarterback, running back and wide receiver. He's among the most versatile players in the league and should receive a nice raise from whichever team signs him this offseason. It should be noted Hill is a restricted free agent, so it's a little easier for the Saints to keep him. Bridgewater is an unrestricted free agent.

Brees and Hill coming back, with the latter having a larger role in the offense, probably is the best-case scenario for the Saints. They should again be among the top contenders in the NFC as long as Brees is healthy next season.

2. Teddy Bridgewater is an intriguing Tom Brady replacement
Bridgewater would be among the best options for the Patriots if Brady were to leave in free agency. Brady, after the spending the last 20 seasons with the Patriots, has the ability to be a UFA for the first time in his career in March.

Brady obviously would be the best quarterback available if he reached the open market, but he'll be 43 years old in August. Teams looking for a more long-term answer at quarterback now are likely to have another good option in Bridgewater, who's only 27 years old.

Bridgewater completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,384 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions in nine appearances for the Saints in 2019. Two of his wins as a starter came against quality opponents in the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

He has not been a full-time starter since 2015, one year before he suffered a major knee injury. That said, Bridgewater is still young and ranks among the most accurate quarterbacks in the league. The resiliency he's shown to bounce back from a horrific injury and become a starting-caliber quarterback again has been quite impressive.

3. Cross one name off the top free agent QBs list
The 2020 class of free agent quarterbacks is pretty strong, even if Brees returns to the Saints.

In addition to Brady and Bridgewater, other players who could be available include Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota, Philip Rivers and Case Keenum. Teams looking to upgrade at quarterback in free agency should have plenty of options to consider once the market opens in March. 

4. NFL record books
Brady and Brees had a good duel in 2019 for the most regular season touchdown passes in league history, and with both quarterbacks set to play in 2020, that battle will resume in September. 


Click for the top free agent QBs in 2020

How Drew Brees' return impacts Tom Brady, Patriots and NFL free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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