As Drew Brees’ self-imposed contract deadline looms, the Saints have an important decision to make when it comes to planning for the future. Brees is currently in the final year of the 5-year, $100 million contract he signed in 2012. Though the Saints overall performance has been a mixed bag the past few years, no one on the roster has played with more consistency than No. 9.
At the time of signing his third contract, Brees commanded the largest payday ever by an NFL quarterback. Since then, however, 11 quarterbacks have inked more lucrative deals. Andrew Luck leads the pack averaging $24,594,000. Other quarterbacks currently paid more than Brees include Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan.
The quarterbacks paid slightly less than Brees, ranging between $12-19 million per year, include Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, Brock Osweiler, Tony Romo, Tyrod Taylor, Matt Stafford, Sam Bradford, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. After that group, you get into the under $10million a year group where the only quality starters are those playing out their rookie contracts like Marcus Mariota and James Winston.
After looking at quarterback play versus pay across the league, I see maybe only two quarterbacks, Brady and Rodgers, who I would rather have behind center. As for players making less than Brees, I see zero I would rather have than the Saints current quarterback situation. It’s obvious there is a small handful of elite passers in this league and $20 million a year is the least it takes to secure one of them.
If the Saints are toying with the idea of trading Brees while his value is still high, then there better be a serviceable option available. Luke McCown played well against Carolina last year while Brees recovered from a shoulder injury, but that is too small a sample size to rely on. Besides, McCown was placed on injured reserve by the end of the season with his own back injury, so it’s not like he was any more durable than Brees who has missed only two games over his entire tenure with Saints (only one of them due to injury).
The other option, Garrett Grayson, has failed to instill any confidence whatsoever that he may be ready to take the reins from one of the best signal callers to ever play the game. Furthermore, Grayson’s limited growth shines a brighter light on the Saints’ inability to draft and develop a reliable signal caller who can lead the team into its next era.
The Saints’ inefficient recent draft history, coupled with the drought of reasonably priced replacements across the league, strengthens Brees' position, as he and high-powered super agent Tom Condon approach the bargaining table this week. Quarterback has become the most important position in football as the league has become more pass-oriented. It’s hard to swallow the $25 million per year the 37-year-old Brees is apparently asking for, but with the salary cap continuously rising, can one really say that he’s not worth it?
Of course, we’d all love it if Brees took a little pay cut like Tom Brady has done in the past. But Brees’ history as a leader in the NFLPA has always played a large part in his contract dealings. He has NEVER taken a pay cut and has always sought contract numbers that set a new bar for future contracts in his position. Whether you believe he has a right to continuously ask for the most money in the league, even despite his age, his performance and leadership over the years has consistently been worth the investment when compared to similarly paid athletes across the league.
Moreover, if the Saints are going to continue their march towards mediocrity, why not do it with a future Hall of Fame quarterback who is going to breaks some super fun records over the next few years? Drew Brees is already the all time leader in pass completion percentage with 66.4 percent. It’s not unfathomable that he could retire with the best pass completion percentage ever.
This season, Brees has a chance to leapfrog Dan Marino on the all-time career passing yards list, and as he has posted 4,000-yard-plus seasons over and over again, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to top the list over Brett Favre and Peyton Manning by the end of the 2018 season.
After averaging well over 400 completions per year for the past six years, Brees has a great chance of passing those same two quarterbacks for most career completions as early as next season. In addition, if Brees keeps averaging 30 or more touchdowns per season like he has for the past eight years, he will pass Favre on the list of all time passing TDs in three seasons. If Brees can stick it out a fourth season, he has a legitimate chance of passing Manning and holding the career passing TD title outright. Suddenly, it makes sense why Brees is asking for a four-year extension.
The main road bump for Saints decision makers seems to be the $85 million in total guaranteed money that Brees and Condon are asking for. The Saints may also hesitate to give a 37-year-old quarterback the richest 4-year deal in NFL history. It’s clear, though, that extending Brees any length of time is probably the best option for the team.
I think there is value in the known over the unknown, and Brees’ performance track record is both strong and steady. Remember when Aaron Brooks threw a pass BACKWARDS to an offensive lineman? That was the quarterback play we were used to before Brees. Sometimes you have to pay the piper. By extending Brees, the Saints gain a chance to ride a future Hall of Famer into the sunset while breaking some amazing records in the process.
Sounds kind of fun doesn’t it?