There’s probably some frustration brewing throughout the region that Drew Brees has not yet been signed to a contract extension by the Saints.
People want the franchise’s future locked up and placed in the secure and steady hands of the best player to ever set foot in this city. They want the salary-cap space that would come with striking a deal. And they’re growing tired of waiting.
It wasn’t supposed to linger like this. Coach Sean Payton said during an interview at the NFL scouting combine that he expected the deal to come together quickly. Instead, free agency — at least the portion when headliners can be acquired — has already came and gone.
If this extension had happened quickly, New Orleans could have hired a contractor to do the work instead of spreading some spackling over the holes on the roster. Throw a couple of years on the end of Brees’ deal, which is due to count $30 million against the salary cap this year, and there would have been enough money for an addition. The salary-cap woes would have been over for this year, future be damned.
It’s hard to know whether the situation is coming any closer to a resolution. When asked about it Monday at LSU’s pro day, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was coy about the whole thing. He said he wasn’t going to address the situation and that Brees is currently under contract.
That statement is only ominous if you want it to be. The Saints — and Brees — have played this one close to the vest after his last contract negotiation with the team played out rather publicly — and, judging from comments made at the time, grew somewhat contentious.
In other words, no one is talking. It also could mean things haven’t gotten involved enough for any information to leak. It’s a waiting game.
That could be good.
Imagine you’re the Saints. You try to enter into contract negotiations in late February. You have very little salary-cap space to use in free agency, and extending Brees’ contract could push something like $10 million into the future.
Now imagine you’re the agent on the other side of the table. The ramifications of the situation are obvious. Extend Brees, and anything could be possible for New Orleans.
You have the upper hand. You’re in control. You’re a car dealer working with a customer with poor credit who desperately needs a new car and can’t get financed anywhere else.
Sure, you could be friendly. But it’s more beneficial to you and your client’s pockets to take advantage of the situation.
A shark knows an easy mark when one shows up. And the Saints probably don’t want to get bit.
They can see their future, and it looks bright. There’s only about $88 million in contracts on the books for next season, and all of the dead money on the salary cap this year is scheduled to evaporate. If no major changes occur, the Saints will be in good shape.
Now, again, there’s no inside information here on negotiations. It’s unclear whether there have even been real negotiations yet. But if the Saints sat down at the table committed to getting something done before free agency, it’s very possible they could have been leveraged into entering a bad deal.
If the goal were to sign Brees to a fair contract — and not just open up salary-cap space — the better move would have been to throw out an initial number and then wait until free agency could no longer be used as leverage.
The Baltimore Ravens once found themselves in a similar situation with Joe Flacco. They rushed to re-sign the quarterback following the 2012 Super Bowl and ended up giving him a six-year contract worth $120 million. The salary-cap hit in 2016 was scheduled to be $28.5 million, followed by $31 million in 2017.
But Baltimore rushed to extend Flacco before free agency, which lowered his salary-cap number for 2016 by $6 million. But his cap numbers in future seasons fluctuate from $24 million to $28 million.
If the Saints had sat down with Brees before free agency, it’s likely they would have ended up eating a huge charge or giving a huge guarantee when the quarterback was nearing 40 and potentially in decline.
Who knows? That could still end up being the case. But by waiting a bit, the Saints are in better position to avoid agreeing to terms that make things completely uncomfortable.
Make no mistake: The Saints will never have the leverage here. Brees’ side is always going to have the upper hand.
But the market is set. Flacco’s deal is a starting point for discussions. And Tom Brady taking a deal that averages more than $20 million takes away the whole discount argument.
But Brees’ agent can’t use March 9 as a deadline. The Saints already stared that down and held firm. Doing so puts the team in position to get a fair deal done.
Now, if the regular season hits and there isn’t a deal in place, Brees’ representatives once again will have the upper hand. But that’s a discussion for a later date.
For now, Brees is under contract.