Franchise Quarterback

If the Saints don’t extend Drew Brees’ contract and put the franchise tag on him in 2017, he’ll earn $73.2 million over the next two seasons

            Seven and nine.

            Seven and nine.

            Eleven and five.

            Seven and nine.

            That’s the New Orleans Saints’ regular season records for the past four years. Combined, the Saints are 32-32 in that time. Except for the 2013 season, when they made the postseason and won their first road playoff game in franchise history, they’ve been below average. And that’s with Drew Brees, a future pro football hall of famer and the franchise’s greatest ever player, orchestrating the offense.

            Can you imagine what the team would be without No. 9 under center? It’s a stomach-churning thought for Saints fans, but one that could be reality.

Brees is entering the last season of his current deal. He’s scheduled to make $30 million ($19.75 million in guaranteed base salary, a $10 million prorated bonus, and a $250,000 workout bonus), according to The NFL has set a $155 million salary cap for its teams this year. That means Brees will earn just less than 20 percent of the team’s payroll. That’s a lot to spend on one player, even if he is the best player to ever wear their uniform.

At 37, he remains one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, and looks like he can play among the league’s top half of signal callers for the next few years.

So why hasn’t the team worked with Brees to negotiate a new contract that would lower his financial hit, free up money that could be used to attract other impact players to the team, and keep Brees in New Orleans for the remainder of his career?

At the Saints’ charity softball game Wednesday night, Bress told the Associated Press, “There’s a deal to be done now, and if it doesn’t get done now, it’ll be a different deal to get done at the end of the year.”

He’s absolutely right.

Brees has a lot of negotiating power on his side. His contact is guaranteed, so there is nothing that has to bring him to the negotiating table. He could simply play out his deal and make $30 million this year and test the market as a free agent in 2017.

Of course, the Saints could stand pat and put the franchise tag on their QB for the 2017 season. But if they do that, it would be the third time in his career that Brees has been tagged. According to Pro Football Talk, his salary would increase 44-percent to $43.2 million – for one year. That would mean the Saints would pay Brees $73.2 million for two seasons of play.

There is no doubt that a team in need of a quarterback, especially one who may be a playmaker short of making the Super Bowl, would be interested in signing the future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback to a mega contract. Just this offseason, the Houston Texans, for instance, signed quarterback Brock Osweiler – who has started only seven games in his four-year career and was benched during the playoffs by the Broncos last year – to a four-year, $72 million contract.

Brees has proven to be the cog that makes the team successful. And all but a handful of other teams would jump to have him on their roster. There is no one on the Saints’ roster who can replace his leadership and productivity. Without him, they are nowhere near where they are now. So why not offer Brees somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million to $85 million over the next three to four years. This would reduce Brees’ cap hit, freeing up cash to upgrade much-needed talent around him, appease the fans, draw the interest of free agents, and keep the Saints among the franchises with the perception that they can not only compete, but also win.



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