What is Drew Brees worth?
QBs available, but winners costly
It’s an odd time for quarterbacks in the NFL.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP will likely be on a new team this fall and a guy who has played in only 36 percent of his team’s games over four seasons just became the highest paid player in the league.
Last week, the San Francisco 49ers gave Jimmy Garoppolo a five-year contract extension worth $137.5 million, which will see him get $61.2 million in the first two years of the deal with $48.7 million of the contract guaranteed. It is the largest on average annual contract in NFL history.
Garoppolo’s $27.5 million annual average surpassed the Detroit Lions’ $27 million per year deal with Matthew Stafford, who has a 60-68 career record. The Raiders’ Derek Carr, $25.0 million (28-34 career); Colts’ Andrew Luck, $24.6 million (46-30), and Chief’s Alex Smith, $23.5 million (90-67-1), round out the NFL’s current top five highest annual contracts.
While some are calling Garoppolo a franchise quarterback after leading the 49ers to a 5-0 record after a late season trade, the fact of the matter is he’s only appeared in 23 games, and opposing teams haven’t had much video on him to study and prepare their defense.
All of which begs the question, what is Drew Brees worth? That’s what the resurgent New Orleans Saints’ administration must decide in the coming weeks.
Brees became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2017 season, in which he played under a fully guaranteed, one-year, $24.25 million contract with a $30 million signing bonus. He was on the team’s books for $19 million – $13 million in base salary with a $6 million signing bonus – about 11.69 percent of the team’s cap space, according to spotrac.com, an online data base of sports team and player contract information. Having been named a franchise player thrice previously in his career, a league rule prevents the Saints from using the designation and blocking him from leaving should he choose to do so. There’s no doubt that Brees (149-112) would be a hot commodity on the open market, especially with a contender with money who feels they are a missing piece away from a Super Bowl run.
Brees, however, isn’t alone as a quarterback looking to make a deal. That’s what makes this offseason so odd. The last time we saw Nick Foles, he lead the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl Championship in an MVP performance. Chances are, he’ll likely start the 2018 season in a new city. Smith led the Chiefs to the playoffs this year, but Kansas City has decided to move forward with Patrick Mahomes under center. They will trade Smith to the Washington Redskins at the beginning of the new league year on March 14, where he will likely get a new contract. That means Washington’s 2017 QB, Kirk Cousins, is looking for a new gig, which means someone else will be looking, too. Considering there are five college quarterbacks – USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson – in this year’s draft who could potentially become franchise players in the NFL, there could be a lot of transient QBs across the league.
The laws of supply and demand say a glut in available players should drive their prices down, but quarterback contracts are seemingly immune to those rules. Brees’ agent knows the Saints are carrying as much dead money on their salary cap roster as they were a few seasons ago. The team can afford to pay Brees as well as a full, talented supporting roster in all three phases of the game.
According to sportrac, the league is expected to impose a $178 million team salary cap in 2018. Because the Saints didn’t use their full cap amount last season, they can add the remainder to this year’s figure, raising it to $179.43 million. The team currently has 65 players signed to deals worth $140.63 million and $12.94 in dead money owed to former players, giving them $25.86 million in cap space. Only the Top 51 players will count against the cap, however. That increases the available pot to $32.88 million. With some expected minor tweaks to the payroll, there should be enough to add rookies and secure Brees until retirement.
NFL’s Top Annual Salaries
The San Francisco 49ers made Jimmy Garoppolo the highest paid player in the league with an average annual salary of $27.5 million. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees made $24.25, but is an unrestricted free agent this year. The Saints are trying to figure out how much to pay their QB while keeping balance across the rest of the roster.
Rank Name Avg. Salary
1 Jimmy Garoppolo $27.5
2 Matthew Stafford $27.0
3 Derek Carr $25.0
4 Andrew Luck $24.6
5 Alex Smith $23.5
6 Joe Flacco $22.1
7 Aaron Rodgers $22.0
8 Russell Wilson $21.9
9 Ben Roethlisberger $21.9
10 Eli Manning $21.0
Figures in millions