METAIRIE, La. -- Fifty million dollars over two years might not sound like much of a discount. But considering that Drew Brees' latest extension with the New Orleans Saints includes just $27 million guaranteed, he might be as much of a bargain as anyone who signs in free agency this year.
For example, quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford each reportedly got deals with at least $84 million in guarantees over the past year. Alex Smith reportedly got $71 million guaranteed.
And a source said that at least one other team was willing to give Brees $60 million guaranteed over two years to try and woo him away from New Orleans.
But the Saints have made it clear that they want to pay Brees just one year at a time now that he is 39 years old. And for the third consecutive year, the future Hall of Famer was willing to offer the Saints a bit of a “hometown discount” in terms of the length of his contract. In 2016, he signed just a one-year extension, and last year he let his deal play out without pushing for an early renewal.
“I’d be lying if I said it [wasn’t hard to weigh maximizing his value and raising the bar for other players versus helping the team],” said Brees, who was once a prominent member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee. “Because I know that when any player does their deal, they typically look at the comps and base their deal on those -- and what is 'market value.' ... I’m sure that one of these quarterbacks coming up -- Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins -- is going to set a new mark.
“But for me, this was about putting our team in the best position to go win a championship in the next few years. ... I’ve made it very clear from day one that I was always gonna be a New Orleans Saint as long as they would have me."
Brees practically apologized to agent Tom Condon, whose job is to keep raising the bar while representing many of the game’s top quarterbacks. (He oversaw the Stafford and Smith deals and has Ryan coming up next, among others.)
“I love my agent. I think he’s the best there is. ... But at the end of the day, my intent was much different in regards to building the team," said Brees, who noted that it was interesting to hear what other teams were willing to pay him for the first time in 12 years, since teams were free to negotiate with Condon when the "legal tampering" window opened on Monday.
"I've never had a chance to hear that, except for when I was hurt back in 2006,” Brees said. “But in most cases when my agent would begin to open his mouth about another team, I would not even let him finish the sentence."
So what does Brees expect in return?
Well, another Super Bowl is obviously the ultimate goal.
Oh ... and bringing back free agent tight end Jimmy Graham wouldn’t hurt, either.
"All I’ll say is I would love nothing more than to have Jimmy back," Brees said. "He’d be an even better fit now than he was when he first started with us."
A reunion with Graham seems like a very realistic possibility, with several reports surfacing over the past week that New Orleans is a serious contender for him now that his contract has expired with the Seattle Seahawks.
As for that second Super Bowl championship -- well, that seems more realistic than it has in a while, too, after the Saints went 11-5 last year and came one miracle play away from reaching the NFC Championship Game.
The Saints rebuilt their roster around Brees while suffering through three straight 7-9 seasons from 2014-16 -- thanks in large part to a historic 2017 draft class that produced both Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara and Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore.
The Saints have also invested heavily in their offensive line, which has the potential -- as does their young defense -- to be as good as any Brees has worked with during his 12 years in New Orleans.
“Well, I’m excited about the youth that we have and the talent, and also the mindset. I think we’ve got some guys that have a maturity level that’s beyond their years and that also really showed a commitment to the way we do things with the Saints,” Brees said. “But the bottom line is, the real challenging part comes with once you’ve had success, how do you handle that success? Do you continue to approach the game with the same sense of urgency. the same commitment to constantly improving and being coachable?
“And if we want to be a great team, we have to approach it with that mindset.”
The last time Brees signed a team-friendly contract extension, just days before the start of the 2016 season, it was fair to wonder if he might be short-changing himself by staying in New Orleans instead of chasing one last Super Bowl with a team that was more ready-built for a title run.
Now it looks like he can do both at the same time.