Cha-ching! Drew Brees just got paid.
That’s not the big surprise here. What literally knocked me out of my chair (OK, maybe not literally) was the NFL-record $60 million the Saints have guaranteed Brees, and the fact he will be making an absurd $40 million in 2012 alone.
This is an unprecedented contract and one that has to have Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers smiling uncontrollably somewhere in Wisconsin.
The outlandish contract means one thing: The Saints (led by general manager Mickey Loomis) blinked.
The 4 p.m. ET Monday deadline continued to inch closer, and it became clear that Brees had all of the leverage. The Saints are nothing without their record-breaking quarterback, and essentially had to give him a blank check.
With the “Bountygate” scandal looming over the franchise, no high-profile free agent is looking in the Saints direction right now.
Brees gives the team credibility.
One of the problems I have with this deal is how long it dragged on. The poor folks writing for the Times-Picayune must have dedicated about 1,212,434 words to the on-going dispute, and each day the citizens of New Orleans read the latest update while shaking their heads in disgust.
Brees is a local hero, and deserved better from team management.
That will all eventually blow over, what I’m really worried about is the long-term outlook on Brees.
The 33-year-old is now the highest paid player in NFL history, which is perfectly fine this year after breaking Dan Marino’s all-time passing yards mark by registering 5,476 yards. He also set NFL records in 2011 for completion percentage (71.2 percent), completions (468), 300-yard games (13) and consecutive 300-yard games (7) to give him one of the most breathtaking statistical seasons ever (h/t ESPN Stats & Info).
Amazing—no question about it.
But there is nowhere to go, but down from here.
Is there any conceivable way he could surpass those numbers in 2013? Maybe, but odds are he’ll throw more than the 14 interceptions he had last season in the process with the extreme risks he takes at times.
Speaking of interceptions, did you know that Cincinnati Bengals rookie Andy Dalton (13) had fewer interceptions than Brees? Sure, he didn’t throw nearly as many passes, but it’s something worth noting.
Aaron Rodgers only threw six picks. Tony Romo tossed 10 while Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco each threw 12. They all threw less passes than Brees, but it tells us that the Saints star is a bit more careless with the ball than most of his prolific peers.
He threw two critical picks against the San Francisco 49ers in their crushing playoff defeat earlier this year, and owns a 1-2 playoff record in the last two seasons.
Sure, the running game has been an issue lately in the postseason, but it comes back to the leader of the team.
Right now it seems as if Brees is the new-age Peyton Manning. He blinds you with eye-popping numbers, but falls short in the postseason. He’ll forever be loved for his Super Bowl win, but that was a long time ago at this point.
Does he have another deep postseason run in him? Can his shoulder hold up in the process?
While his shoulder injury and subsequent surgery is ancient history, it’s an issue that will follow him around for the remainder of his career. All it takes is one big hit to put him in a sling.
Scenario: Let’s say Brees takes a punishing hit (considering how many times he drops back, it’s destined to happen) and severely damages his shoulder during the 2014 season. At the age of 35, he’ll miss the rest of the season due to surgery, and enters the 2015 season (with two years remaining on his contract) with question marks hanging over his head.
He’ll have already made $60 million, and the Saints have to make a decision if they cut their franchise star and eat $5 million, or roll the dice with a potentially damaged QB while trying to fill holes at other positions via free agency. The cap hit in '15 will be $26.4 million for Brees.
Brady set the bar in 2010 when he agreed to a four-year, $72 million with “only” $48.5 million guaranteed. It was a deal that satisfied Brady, yet still gave the Patriots long-term flexibility in the event of a catastrophic injury.
Brees is an outstanding person by all accounts, works hard and will do his best to live up to his contract. Yet with a history of injuries and the amount of times he’ll be in harm’s way, giving him $60 million guaranteed was an incredibly risky move that could potentially haunt the Saints down the road.
No question Brees deserved to get paid, but I think the Saints were blinded by his stats last season and aren’t evaluating the potential long-term repercussions with so much money fully guaranteed.
With the way this offseason has gone for the Saints, it’s no coincidence the deal was finished on Friday 13th.
Proceed with caution Saints fans.