METAIRIE, La. — The timing was ripe for Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to finally get a contract extension done this week leading up to training camp.
Instead, stubbornness remains undefeated. Brees said the two sides haven’t even resumed negotiations in the past three months.
Obviously they need some sort of artificial deadline to spur action. But this week seemed like the perfect one. Brees, 37, could eliminate the risk of injury heading into the final year of his current deal. The Saints could secure the one guy keeping them in playoff contention — and prevent his future from becoming the subject of those weekly “splash reports” they so despise from the national media.
And everyone could show up in West Virginia all smiles, with positive vibes to help shake off the rust from back-to-back 7-9 seasons.
Then again, I thought they woulda, shoulda gotten this deal done months ago, before the start of free agency, when they coulda reduced Brees’ $30 million salary-cap figure.
Now I’ll stress that they had better get it done before the start of the regular season — which Brees has set as his own unofficial deadline. But it has become painfully obvious that this deal won’t come together quickly or easily.
Well, some of it can probably be attributed to three strong-willed people — Brees, his power-agent Tom Condon and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. And a lot of it can be attributed to Brees’ age and the guaranteed money associated with a deal like this.
It’s easy to say that Brees deserves somewhere between Luck’s $24.6 million per year in new money and Flacco’s $22.13 million per year in new money — and he’ll probably get it.
But it’s harder to say whether Brees’ guaranteed money will fall between Luck’s $87 million and Flacco’s $62 million.
Essentially, the Saints would have to guarantee the next three years of Brees’ contract — when he’s 37, 38 and 39 years old.
I would do it, banking on Brees still being among the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks during that span. He certainly was last season, when he led the league with 4,870 passing yards despite missing a game with an injury, and outdueled Eli Manning with seven TD passes in a 52-49 win against the New York Giants.
When your defense is giving up 49 points, it’s kinda nice to have a QB who can post 52.
More importantly, I would hate to dive into the uncertain QB market, where teams find themselves paying $18 million per year for the likes of Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford. Or rolling the dice on unproven QBs in the draft. Or both.
The Saints can win with Brees at 37, 38 or 39 — as long as they do a better job of building the team around him. I can’t say with any confidence that they’ll be able to win with the next QB, even if they have an extra $10 or $20 million to spend on the rest of the roster.
As an added bonus, Brees is on pace to break Peyton Manning‘s all-time passing yardage record (and possibly his touchdown record) with three more full seasons. So even if the Saints aren’t serious playoff contenders in 2018, at least they’d have that excitement to fall back on.
But I understand why the Saints might hesitate to guarantee that much money. Brees has battled a series of nagging injuries in the past two years. And while his performance hasn’t dropped off much, it’s not going to get better from here on out.
Also, the Saints have to feel like they’ve been spinning their wheels with back-to-back losing seasons. Middle of the road is no fun. Maybe letting the bottom drop out for a year and drafting their own Jameis Winston or Jared Goff intrigues them.
Do they see a scenario where they can get back to winning 11-plus games and going deep in the playoffs during the next two or three years? Or would they be eating up all that cap space and continuing to draft in the teens every year if they re-up Brees?
Four years ago, when Loomis, Condon and Brees were engaged in a similar stubborn contract standoff, I blamed both sides equally. But I wrote that it was almost impossible to overpay Brees. Now I can at least acknowledge that there is an argument to be made.
But I still think the Saints should lock into Brees for three more years — and that they should do it now instead of waiting until next March. Because then the guaranteed money required would take Brees into his age-40 season instead. And they might have to compete against some desperate teams willing to pay Brees more than $25 million per year.
On the flip side, I think Brees should be willing to leave a little money on the table if needed, so that he doesn’t risk injury and so that he gives the Saints a better chance to make another championship run before he’s done.
He doesn’t have to follow Tom Brady‘s blueprint. Practically nobody else in sports does (see: recent NBA contracts). But he also doesn’t have to max out every penny.
I don’t think Brees is eager to leave, and I don’t think the Saints are eager to dump him. So both sides should be more eager to get this deal done.