New Orleans Saints fans, at long last, it's time to exhale.
In an offseason that has been rife with embarrassment and suspensions, the last thing the Crescent City faithful needed was uncertainty about the future of their star quarterback, Drew Brees.
Brees made it no secret that he wanted to remain in the city that would make him emperor tomorrow were the mayorship and city council to collapse. Owner Tom Benson also clearly wanted to keep the city's favorite son, but there were quite a few contractual hiccups along the way.
No matter, though, the deal was finalized on Sunday and Brees will remain in the black and gold.
By signing a five-year, $100 million deal, Brees and the Saints can walk into training camp later this month with just one item on the agenda—trying to bring back the Lombardi Trophy.
Many have weighed in on the contract, and many have posited that the Saints overpaid for Brees. By necessity, of course, but an overpayment none the less. That was the belief.
And that belief couldn't be further from the truth.
First, it's important to note that Brees's cap hits are not only manageable for New Orleans, but are a downright steal. Brees was set to make $16.371 million in 2012 under the franchise tag.
Under this new deal, the actual cap hit is a relatively meager $10.4 million. That's an underpayment for a player of his caliber. The bulk of the contract is in the signing bonus and the Saints do have options to release Brees at various intervals.
Is any player more important to his team than Drew Brees?
It's almost as important to note that Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and other legendary signal-callers played at very high levels at 38 or 39 years of age—right where Brees will be after the fifth year of this deal. There's no real reason to assume that his level of play will markedly decline before the five-year deal expires.
All of that said, the real reason that Brees isn't overpaid has nothing to do with a football field. It has nothing to do with money, either.
It has everything to do with Brees being not only the most important player to ever suit up in New Orleans, but a pillar in the community and an inspiration to so many in the communities he's helped to rebuild.
When Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans in 2005 and permanently drove tens of thousands of people from its iconic streets, whether or not the Saints would ever play in the city again was largely up in the air. As relief and rebuilding came to the city, so did Drew Brees. With him, he brought the charity and outreach initiative he began in 2003, The Dream Foundation.
Through The Dream Foundation and another organization he paired with in 2007, Operation Kids, Brees worked diligently to help rebuild parks, academic facilities, athletic centers and after-school mentoring programs. When he wasn't on the field, he was helping to raise up children and neighborhoods that he had only known for a short amount of time.
So many athletes treat community service and charity as a chore; Brees treated it as a privilege.
By ingratiating himself to so many in the city, he's become more than a football player and more than a quarterback. He's been a source of hope. The Saints didn't even sign a player so much as an idea; the idea that an athlete that cares about his community and the people within it is not a thing of the past.
In doing so much, Brees has still stayed a picture of humility. When reflecting on Katrina in an interview with ESPN's Pat Yasinskas last summer, it wasn't "I" he talked about, it was "we":
"Obviously in so many ways New Orleans has come back better - while in one moment you say, 'Look how far we've come,' you also have to say, 'What's still left to do?,'" Brees told the media. "And I think that's definitely motivation for all of us just to continue on. It's gone by fast. That's where you just have to say, 'Life does go by fast. And so let's take advantage of every opportunity we have and improve our place to live.’’
The New Orleans Saints may have spent $100 million on their quarterback, but what they really bought is a beacon of modesty and an unquestioned inspiration for the city.
You just can't put a price on that.