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A win-win contract extension would make sense for Saints, Drew Brees

METAIRIE, La. -- For the second time in two years, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots worked out a win-win contract restructure.

This one was unique, because it didn’t actually affect the Patriots’ salary cap. As ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss explained, the goal was to free up cash flow by changing the designation of the guarantees in Brady’s contract from “skill” to injury only.

So to answer the question that immediately popped up among New Orleans Saints fans: No, the Saints and Drew Brees won’t do this exact same thing, because the contracts are structured differently.

However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brees and the Saints work out something similar to what Brady and the Patriots did in 2013 – adding a three-year contract extension that freed up salary-cap space in the short term.

Brees has two years left on the five-year, $100 million contract he signed in 2012. And the cap costs are about to balloon. He’s due to make $19 million in salary and workout bonuses in 2015 and $20 million in 2016. As a result, his cap figures will be $26.4 million and $27.4 million.

If Brees tacks on another three years to his deal, some of those salaries could be converted into signing bonus, and the salary-cap costs could be spread out over five years. That’s key, since the Saints will enter 2015 more than $20 million over the projected salary cap (though as I wrote last week, they have plenty of ways to trim that figure).

First of all, I want to make it clear that Brees should not take a pay cut, and the Saints almost certainly won’t ask him to.

I absolutely believe Brees is worth those lofty dollar amounts, despite the fact that he turns 36 next month and is coming off a down year with too many costly turnovers.

Brees still gives the Saints their best chance to win going forward and should be able to do so for at least two or three more years. And even if those salaries look a little out of whack, keep in mind that Brees’ deal was intentionally back-loaded for salary-cap purposes to provide the Saints some much-needed cap space in previous years. Brees was such a bargain for so long, these next two years could even be considered well-deserved back pay.

However, I will be very interested to see if Brees considers following Brady’s lead and taking less than market value in future years as part of an extension.

The Brady deal in 2013 was a win-win for the quarterback and his team. Brady received all of the salary and bonuses that were remaining on his previous deal in the form of a $30 million signing bonus, he wound up getting a $3 million raise over a two-year span from 2013-2014, and he wound up with a total of $57 million in guarantees over the life of the five-year deal.

But where Brady appeared to be uniquely unselfish was that he agreed to salaries that were well below market value from 2015-2017 (a total of just $24 million -- which was increased to a total of $27 million on Monday).

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brees take a similar approach, finding a way to both help his team out and increase the likelihood of playing in New Orleans until he’s 40 or beyond.

But even if Brees doesn’t give a hometown discount on future salaries, he would still help the Saints’ salary-cap situation by adding three new years at full market value. So one way or another, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an extension – if not this offseason, then definitely in 2016.