In one of the more iconic Super Bowl moments ever, Drew Brees and his then-young son Baylen were reaching out and touching confetti dropping after defeating the Indianapolis Colts in 2009. It was truly a heartwarming story, with all that the city of New Orleans had been through since the Brees came there just a few seasons before as a free agent. Since being in a New Orleans Saints uniform, Brees has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in a quarterback-driven NFL. In “NOLA,” he’s had 58,097 passing yards with a 68.1 completion percentage, 408 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 99.6, per Pro Football Reference. He’s been nothing short of incredible, but the talent around him and middle-of-the-road organization isn’t so special that he shouldn’t even test the free agency market. Colin Cowherd of The Herd couldn’t have described it better in demonstrating how much of a mistake it is for Brees to simply follow orders and re-sign in New Orleans.
The 39-year old is now slated to be a free agent. After signing a one-year contract extension at the beginning of the 2016 season to extend his stay in New Orleans through 2017, per Joel Corry of CBS Sports, Brees is now in the market for a new deal. As of right now, the legend wants to stay the course in the “Big Easy.” As Cowherd suggested, however, it’s difficult to believe he’ll simply dismiss other options when the market opens come March, and football is a business after all.
Even though Brees is 39, he’s still an elite signal-caller, and his arm strength does not appear to be in decline. Last season, he did not need to throw nearly as often, but he was very efficient in his marksmanship of opposing defenses. Remarkably, he had his lowest yardage passing yardage total since coming to New Orleans in 2006, but that still amounted to be 4,334 yards. He also had the highest completion percentage in the NFL, and the highest yards per pass attempt, courtesy of Pro Football Reference. His value is still through the roof, and that couldn’t be more clear around the league. The aforementioned Corry broke down how Brees’ contract makes him coming back to New Orleans not simply a “sign here” situation.
“Brees signed a one-year contract extension for $24.25 million at the beginning of the 2016 season. The contract contained a $30 million signing bonus while being structured with 2018-20 contract years that automatically void on March 14, the last day of the 2017 league year. The inclusion of the three fake years permitted the Saints to prorate the $30 million over five years for salary cap purposes, instead of just two years. If these dummy years void, the Saints will have an $18 million cap charge during the 2018 league year relating to Brees’ signing bonus, regardless of where he plays next season.”
“Brees was given a no-trade clause. More importantly, his contract also contains language preventing the Saints from designating him as a franchise or transition player. From a practical standpoint, the voiding date eliminates the possibility of Brees being given a franchise or transition tag since it’s after the designation period ends on March 6.”
To make a long story short, if Brees wants to get paid what he’s worth to stay with the Saints, he’s going to need to take a big discount. That doesn’t seem necessary for what he means to this team and head coach Sean Payton, though. Cowherd touched on why Brees not testing the waters of free agency is a shame for his legacy in the NFL. He’s put this organization on his back for so long, while mostly not having a competent defense, and they’ve been anything but consistent in other areas.
Brees had a great running game this season, as he’s had here and there in the past in New Orleans, but that hasn’t been a staple in Payton’s tenure. Most of the time in recent years, it’s been Brees having to throw for 5,ooo-plus yards to keep the Saints in games. For three straight years before this season, New Orleans finished 7-9, and Brees didn’t have much of a defense to speak of. In the end of the game they recently lost to the Minnesota Vikings (who would be a tremendous free agent destination for Brees, by the way), the defense blew it for Brees to potentially make another Super Bowl. As Cowherd illustrated in the above video segment, the Saints have been hot and cold around him. New Orleans is not the stable organization of the New England Patriots or Green Bay Packers, and on top of that, the Saints play in a very competitive division.
Peyton Manning chose to go play for the Denver Broncos in the twilight of his career. He recognized they had (and still have) a great defense and a very stable organization that had a reputation for winning. New Orleans has talent, yes, but the Saints have not been consistent, and it would be a shame if Brees only wins one Super Bowl, as he’s one of the best QB’s to ever step on a football field. He has nothing left to prove in New Orleans, and in a tough division, and NFC in general, being paired with a dominant defense is key.
Frankly, it would be ridiculous if Brees doesn’t even attempt to test his worth. With a healthier Aaron Rodgers coming back to the Packers and Carson Wentz hopefully returning for the Philadelphia Eagles, to go with the NFC West getting much better, winning a Super Bowl with the Saints will only get harder. It’s ultimately up to Brees and his family, but completely dismissing free agency seems like wasting a golden opportunity.
Props to Cowherd in recognizing that quarterbacks can change teams voluntarily, too.