Drew Brees and his contract helped doom New Orleans
- Updated: March 18, 2015
The New Orleans Saints have made some perplexing moves this offseason. They traded away their best receiving threat, tight end Jimmy Graham, to Seattle for veteran center Max Unger. They traded away offensive lineman Ben Grubbs to Kansas City for a draft pick. And they traded away explosive wide receiver Kenny Stills to Miami and received linebacker Dannell Ellerbe in return. It’s no secret that New Orleans has salary cap issues. They re-signed running back Mark Ingram and brought in running back CJ Spiller to be the change-of-pace back, but they had to restructure Ellerbe’s contract to even afford him and they had to let go of some of their complementary players to fit in a guy like CJ Spiller, who may remind Saints fans of Reggie Bush. And even with some of the maneuvering, the Saints still have cap issues. The issue of the cap started only a few years ago for the Saints, as they set themselves up for their own cap doom.
In 2012, Drew Brees was looking for a new deal and he was willing to hold out for it. The posturing went on for a while, but the New Orleans Saints finally caved and paid Brees. The veteran quarterback signed a five-year, $100 million contract that had $40 million in guaranteed money. On the surface, many would think that is a bargain price for the deals out there quarterbacks are getting. But when you look a little deeper, this contract was the beginning of the end for the New Orleans Saints. If you look at the cap hit at the beginning of the deal Brees received, the hit was only $10 million. That allowed the team to be able to make some moves around Brees at that time. But heading into this season, Brees and his contract are crippling the team. He is scheduled to make almost $27 million this season and that is a pretty sizeable cap hit for that team. To put into perspective his salary cap hit on this team, Brees is taking up almost 19% of the cap in New Orleans. When you have a team of 53 players, it becomes hard to doing things with that much of your cap tied into one player. And with the Saints not doing so well in drafting players the last few years, it seems as if the contract they gave Brees has been a hindrance more than a help. Ultimately, the Saints may want to move Drew Brees if they can.
The Saints are not the only team that has had to make this decision and they will not be the last one to do so either. But the Saints also could have tried to rectify the decision as well. It seems as if teams are afraid to approach their quarterbacks for restructuring of deals. They approach other players for them all the time. Some accept them while others decide they don’t want to. The onus is on the player to make the decision as to what they want to do next. But it seems as if the guy that gets paid the most ends up throwing the salary cap the most out of whack in most instances. Another example of the salary cap being thrown outta whack is the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo has not even won a Super Bowl or been a regular in the playoffs, yet he is scheduled to be an even bigger cap hit than Drew Brees this year at almost $28 million. Yet this offseason, guys like offensive tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Brandon Carr are the ones that will be taking paycuts ahead of asking Romo. And as a result of them not approaching him, the Cowboys have no cap space to retain their players or add as many pieces as they would like to. In the end, the big deal can be nice-looking to fans and to players, but it can guarantee no wins in a lot of instances. And for those that want to point out a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick for his contract, he actually only is a cap hit of $15 million for the 49ers. The way his deal is structured allows for more money to be spread around and allowed the team to add more pieces to help him offensively like Reggie Bush and Torrey Smith. And it also helps frees up money down the line to make moves to add to the team or retain players like Aldon Smith should they become free agents.
Ultimately, the big deal and how it is structured can be great for players and their agents, but it also has to make sense for the team. As a result of the deal the Saints and Cowboys made, the team is not able to keep players they like and they have to hope for players to take less to want to play with them. Dallas was able to overcome that last season, but this season they may not to be able to. The Saints look like they are changing their dynamic offensively to put more focus on the ground game with their changes, but they are also doing most of them out of necessity. The team cannot change much due to the Brees contract. Keeping a Super Bowl hero in town has its good things. It makes the fans happy and keeps a familiar face around. But on the flip side, if the deal is not great for both sides, you may as well say you are handcuffing your organization. And this is the reality of the New Orleans Saints.