New Brees contract not out of the question
Even with age, QB still one of the NFL’s best
The Saints’ release of linebacker Junior Galette last week was a surprise that will have immediate effect on the defense and longer-term effects that could affect the other side of the ball.
Galette, a captain and the team’s best pass rusher the past two seasons signed a four-year, $41.5 million contract extension in September. Because of the financial ju-jitsu, including delayed bonuses, general manager Mickey Loomis has used to get the Saints under the league-mandated salary cap, the team will be charged $5.5 million toward the cap for Galette this season and $12.1 million in 2016.
Unfortunately, several former Saints’ players had similar deals. In an excellent column, grantland.com writer Bill Barnwell points out that this season “New Orleans has more than $27 million of its cap space — nearly 19 percent of the $143.3 million it has to work with — tied up in players who are no longer on the roster.”
Four former players, Jimmy Graham, Ben Grubs, Curtis Lofton and Galette, account for $25.5 million in dead money counted toward the team’s 2015 cap figure. That’s a lot of loot for players who won’t suit up in black and gold this year.
It should alarm fans that the team is already projected to be $11.1 million over the projected $150 million cap in 2016. That means further adjustments must be made. The wisest place to start is at the top, with quarterback Drew Brees.
Since he came to New Orleans a decade ago, the Saints have been built around Brees. He came to New Orleans on a six year, $60 million deal, and signed a five-year, $100 million extension in 2011. Brees has a $26.4 million cap figure this year. It increases to $27.4 million, almost a fifth (18.3 %) of the total cap in 2016, the last year of the deal.
It doesn’t make sense for the Saints to use that much cap space for one player out of 53. The best thing for them to do would be to work out a multi-year contract extension within the next year with the aim of freeing cap space, improving the overall quality of the roster and stabilizing the quarterback position until a replacement is ready.
Of course, the Saints could trade or release Brees, more than freeing $20 million-plus in cap space they need. But I don’t expect that to happen as it would incite riots across Who Dat Nation.
Brees is the face of the franchise and the Saints’ greatest player of all time. He will be 36 this season and is considered, along with Aaron Rodgers (31), Tom Brady (37), and Peyton Manning (39), among the top quarterbacks in the NFL. With Brady and Manning quarterbacking their teams to the Super Bowl in the last two seasons, it is fully within reason to think Brees has top-quality years left. Even if he were to slip out of elite status, he would still be one of the game’s better QBs and more than suitable to lead this team.
If third-round draft pick Garrett Grayson is indeed Brees’ heir-apparent, he could benefit from learning head coach Sean Payton’s system and serving as an understudy to the sure to be Hall of Fame inductee. If the stars align, hopefully the Saints can see Grayson replace Brees in much the same way Rodgers took over for Hall of Famer Brett Favre in Green Bay, just without all of the associated off-field drama. Lord knows, we don’t need that.