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Two for Drew

Saints need to offer Brees a two-year deal; find, groom quarterback of the future



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Drew Brees, the greatest Saints player to wear the black and gold, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. While that designation might be a crossroads in the careers of many players, Brees, who has led the league in passing yards seven times — including 5,208 last season — has his career’s destiny in his own hands.

In September, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that since Brees has been named a franchise player thrice previously in contract negotiations, a league rule prevents the team from using the designation and blocking Brees from leaving should he choose to do so. No doubt he’d be a hot commodity on the open market in the quarterback-needy NFL, especially for a contender with money who feels they are one missing piece away from a Super Bowl run. But there is no reason for the Saints to not fight to keep him.

After Brees said he wants to play in New Orleans for as long as he can, the Saints may feel lax to make a new deal with an aging quarterback whose skills might begin to dull. Still, they must be cognizant of his competitive nature and desire for a second championship run, as well as the stacks of cash that could be thrown his way.

The future Hall of Famer is currently playing under a fully guaranteed, one-year, $24.25 million contract with a $30 million signing bonus, but is on the team’s books for $19 million – $13 million in base salary with a $6 million signing bonus. This represents about 11.69 percent of the team’s cap space, according to Spotrac.com, an online database of sports team and player contract information. Spotrac ranks his average salary as the fifth-highest quarterback in the NFL. Matthew Stafford’s $27 million leads the league.


Numbers

2017 Top 10 Average NFL Salary Rankings

1 Matthew Stafford $27.00 Lions
2 Derek Carr $25.00 Raiders
3 Andrew Luck $24.59 Colts
4 Carson Palmer $24.35 Cardinals
5 Drew Brees $24.25 Saints
6 Kirk Cousins $23.94 Redskins
7 Joe Flacco $22.13 Ravens
8 Aaron Rodgers $22.00 Packers
9 Russell Wilson $21.90 Seahawks
10 Ben Roethlisberger $21.85 Steelers

Sure, there is the sentimental notion that Brees is a legend who deserves to retire as a Saint and apprehension that at 38 years old he could suffer a major injury or not keep up with the speed of the game, but right now he is the best player on the roster, and a career-ending injury could affect a rookie just as easily as a multi-year veteran. Although he’ll turn 39 in 2018, the team should sign their quarterback to a two-year deal, with the understanding that while the team is his, they fully expect to draft and groom his replacement under his tutelage.

It’s likely going to take north of the $25 million a year mark to retain him, but it’s completely worth it. Now that the team isn’t carrying so much dead money on its salary cap roster, the Saints can afford to pay Brees, along with a full, talented supporting cast in all three phases of the game.

The day is coming when Drew Brees will move on from the Saints and the team has to be prepared, but there is a way for the Saints to avoid the drama and uncertainty of trying to find a new quarterback. The fact is Brees is the face of the franchise, a fan favorite and merchandising cash cow, and there isn’t anyone who can come in and replace his productivity and leadership.

In this instance, the Saints have a valuable commodity – time.

They need to use it wisely. Keep Brees and build for the future.


Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.