ESPN’s Bill Barnwell gives Saints Fans a possible glimpse into Drew Brees’s Huge Contract in 2020.
Drew’s Current Contract: One year, $23 million in cash with a voided season ($22.7 million cap hit in 2019, $21.3 million cap hit in 2020)
How can you have two years of cap hits when Brees has one year left on his contract? Well, you throw in automatically voiding seasons to spread a bonus over multiple seasons. The Saints did that with Brees’ 2016 extension and then repeated the tactic in his 2018 deal, but they’ve furthered their exposure by converting $21.6 million due as part of a base salary and a roster bonus to a signing bonus. In doing so, they paid Brees all of that money up front while spreading the cap hit over the two remaining years of the contract.
In this case, the Saints are already guaranteed to owe $21.3 million for Brees on their 2020 cap, regardless of whether he’s on their roster, which amounts to $10.5 million from his original signing bonus and $10.8 million in cap restructures. If Brees retires after the season or takes a big step backward, the Saints will be eating that money. His contract is already guaranteed to detonate after the 2019 season.
What’s interesting here, though, is that the Saints could have restructured Brees’ deal in March by giving him an extension. Tacking an extra year or two onto his deal would have allowed them to hand him a $22 million signing bonus while spreading it over three or more seasons as opposed to merely working within the constraints of the two (on-paper) years remaining in his current deal.
It’s interesting — and perhaps telling — that they chose not to hand Brees such an extension. Now, given that he is down to a base salary of $1.4 million, New Orleans can’t really do anything else to create further breathing room with regards to his current deal. A new deal wouldn’t impact the $21.3 million waiting on their cap in 2020, although it would create an opportunity for Brees to remain on the roster if he wants to come back for a 20th season.
What his new deal could look like: Three years, $54 million with $6 million guaranteed at signing (voids after 2020)
This deal would really just be a vessel to try to keep Brees on the roster in 2020 while kicking the cap concerns down the line. The Saints could give him a relatively small signing bonus — let’s say $6 million — to keep his 2019 cap hit in the same neighborhood, but then throw in a $24 million option bonus as a de facto signing bonus before the 2020 season.
If they do that, they would pay Brees $25 million (the $24 million option bonus with a $1 million base salary) in 2020 with a cap hit of $31.8 million. That’s a lot of money, but it would leave him with the fourth-largest hit in football, which isn’t out of the question. Then, the team would owe $16 million in dead money on its 2021 cap after Brees’ new deal voids. It’s a risky play, but the Saints are clearly comfortable going all-in for the end of his career.