The New Orleans Saints are struggling and a little banged up, so they re-worked injured quarterback Drew Brees’ contract in order to give them a little financial flexibility this season.
Field Yates of ESPN is reporting that New Orleans converted $5.2 million of Brees’ base salary this season into a signing bonus, thus giving the Saints $2.6 million in available salary cap space this year. The reduction in Brees’ base salary, from $18.75 million to $12.4 million, causes his cap number to skyrocket to $30 million for next year, which is the highest in the NFL.
Brees missed the struggling Saints (0-3)27-22 week 3 loss to the Carolina Panthers with a bruised rotator cuff. According to Mike Triplett of ESPN,the 36-year-old was expected to take some reps in practice on Wednesday after his throwing session on Tuesday was deemed a success.
Brees is officially listed as “day-to-day” though he told the Advocate that he took most of the reps with the first team on Wednesday, and he is optimistic about playing in week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys (2-1).
“Felt good. Made progress. Felt a lot better, obviously today, than I did last week. Getting a little bit better every day, so hopefully increased reps as the week goes on, but I feel good about Sunday.”
If Brees is not able to go against the Cowboys, veteran Luke McCown will likely start under center. McCown looked good against the Panthers, completing 19 of his first 20 passes before finishing the day 31-of-38 for 310 yards and one interception. An official decision about Brees’ availability is expected to come on Friday.
Brees hasn’t been awful but is currently on pace to have his worst season since 2003. He has completed 54-of-86 passes (62.8 percent) for 610 yards and two touchdowns as well as two interceptions. Brees is also currently No. 28 in total QBR rating at 41.1.
While re-working Brees’ deal creates a little wiggle room for the Saints to make a move this year, it causes cap problems for next season, as Katherine Terrell of the Times-Picayune pointed out.
New Orleans currently has the most salary on the books for the 2016 season with over $154 million for 41 players, per Pro Football Rumors — this includes the increase to Brees’ cap number from $27.4 million to $30 million. Thus, in order for the Saints to reduce their cap number — as they are currently projected to be over next year’s salary cap — they will have to extend, trade, or release Brees, though it is also conceivable that he will accept a pay cut.
Trading or cutting Brees would leave the Saints with $10 million in dead money on their salary cap, creating $20 million in cap savings, but they’d have to make that decision quickly as over half of the quarterback’s $19.75 million base salary for 2016 becomes guaranteed on the third day of the league’s waiver period in February.
Payton told Evan Woodbury of the Times-Picayune that the Saints were “one short at tight end” and would like to add another player at that position.
Hoomanawanui had been the No. 4 tight end for the Patriots and has been on the field for 22 snaps this season. The sixth-year pro has 40 receptions for a total of 518 yards and four touchdowns for his career. The 6-foot-4, 265 pounder will likely be backed up by veterans Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill.
Hicks was only on the field for 28 snaps against the Panthers after starting the first two games for the Saints. The former third-round selection registered just two tackles this season, both being assists. For his career, the 25-year-old started a total of 33 games for the Saints, with 6.5 sacks and 69 total tackles.
The Boston Globe first reported the trade.
(photo Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)