The floor might be set on Drew Brees’ next contract with the Saints -- at least regarding average annual value.
The Kansas City Chiefs agreed in principle to trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins on Tuesday, and the transaction will reportedly come with a new four-year contract worth $94 million, $71 million of which will be guaranteed, according to the NFL Network.
So, if Brees is looking to maximize his value, it's unlikely he will make less than $23.5 million per season. Another important note: the man negotiating Brees’ contract will be none other than Tom Condon, who also represents Smith and the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford, who signed a new deal worth $27 million per season earlier this year.
Many NFL contracts come with funny money and dollar figures at the end that artificially inflate the value and allow agents to claim they secured eye-popping amounts for their clients. Quite often, the reported guarantees are not true guarantees.
For instance, Stafford’s contract contains $90 million in guarantees, but only $60.5 million of it was fully guaranteed at signing.
Why does this matter for the Saints? Brees’ current deal voids on the last day of the league year and the Smith trade, as well as his contract, cannot be filed with the league until the 2018 league year begins on March 18. That means the team will not be able to review the contract themselves to see how it is structured, and the deal could play a role if it is brought up during negotiations.
However, that might not matter since Condon could provide the parameters of Smith’s deal to the Saints. And the deal could be irrelevant in negotiations since Brees' last deal when you boil down all the fluff and additional years added to spread out the salary-cap ramifications, was a one-year, $24.25 million deal. Condon could simply use Brees' last contract to set the market for Brees.
New Orleans would probably be willing to go to those same limits again and pay Brees something that is considered to be market value. The team was pleased with how he performed last season and has confidence that he will continue to play at the same level next season despite now being 39 years old.
What will be interesting to see is how many years the team will offer the quarterback. The fact that Brees was willing to accept a one-year extension on his last deal could indicate that he is willing to continue signing short-term contracts, and, given his age, the Saints would probably like to continue that trend or at least keep many of the guarantees within the first two years.
But it is important to remember Brees has some leverage over the Saints. His contract included three years at the end that automatically void in March. This was done to spread out his $30 million signing bonus, which prorated over five years instead of two. If the contract voids, the remaining $18 million will accelerate and count against the 2018 cap.
New Orleans can avoid having the pay the full amount next season, if they so choose, by reaching a new deal with Brees first. At some point, the money will have to go on the books, but the Saints would at least regain control over the situation and be able to spread it out in a way that benefits them. This circumstance gives Brees somewhat of an upper hand.
But, this, too, might not matter. Brees has said he has no designs on leaving the team, and general manager Mickey Loomis recently said he did not foresee any issues with keeping his quarterback around.
So, all the right things are being said, but time will tell how it all plays out.