METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints have several major roster decisions to make before the start of the new league year and free-agent signing period March 10. For starters, they must trim somewhere between $20 and $30 million in salary-cap space (most of which will be accomplished by converting roster bonuses into signing bonuses).
Here’s the latest in a series of 10 of the most burning questions the Saints have to answer:
The question: Should the Saints extend Drew Brees' contract?
Brees’ salary vaults way up in 2015 and 2016 -- the final two years of his five-year, $100 million deal. He’s due $19 million in salary and bonuses this season, followed by $20 million in 2016. As a result, his salary-cap figures will be $26.4 million and $27.4 million.
First of all, erase any notion of a possible pay cut. Brees’ salary is fully guaranteed -- and even if it wasn’t, it would have been extremely unlikely for the Saints to pursue one. Brees earned that deal. And even though he had a down year in 2014, a $19 million salary is practically a bargain these days for a quarterback of his caliber.
An extension, however, could be a win-win proposition. Brees, who turned 36 in January, could make a little more money up front in the form of a hefty signing bonus and possibly extra guarantees. Meanwhile, the Saints could get some short-term salary-cap relief and push the bigger hits into future years while the NFL’s cap continues to rise.
And, oh, by the way, it would keep Brees off the free-agent market in 2017 -- which is also a fairly important part of the equation.
The answer: An extension makes a ton of sense. But so far, I haven’t gotten any indication any talks are underway.
The dream scenario for the Saints would be a deal like the one Tom Brady signed with the New England Patriots in 2013, when Brady tacked on a three-year extension and agreed to future salaries that were well below market value (averaging $8 million per year at the time -- though it was bumped to $9 million per year in another recent restructure).
But even if Brees agrees to market-value salaries closer to $20 million from 2017-2019, it would still be a win-win. The Saints could always reserve the right to release him down the road if they don’t feel like he’s worth the price anymore.
A traditional contract restructure (in which the Saints would convert some of Brees’ 2015 salary to a signing bonus, pushing even more cap cost into 2016) is also a slight possibility. But that would only be a short-term solution demanding to be addressed again next year.
Or, of course, the Saints could leave Brees’ contract alone, preferring to trim their salary-cap space elsewhere.