I joke with my colleagues that I'm going to walk around town with a shirt that reads 'I don't know.'
The shirt's message would be my response to the question I get asked more than any other: When will the Saints sign Drew Brees?
I wish I had the answer. But here we are in June, the Saints are in mini-camp and Brees is not present.
Who's to blame? Is it the Saints? Is it Brees?
You could argue a little bit of both. But there's one person who's flown under the radar, one man who's gotten a pass despite being the one person who's manipulated this whole mess.
Yes, I'm talking about Tom Condon, super agent.
It was Condon who advised Brees to walk away from a reported (CBS Sports, WIST) contract extension that would've made him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL at the time.
Now why would he do that?
Could it be that Condon was simultaneously in the process of negotiating Peyton Manning's contract with Indianapolis that would have made him the highest-paid player in the league, let him set the market so when Brees' contract was up the following season, Brees could ask for more and thus, Condon would make more?
Based on multiple reports, the biggest hold-up is the exact dollar amount that would make Brees the highest-paid quarterback. Is it the average over the life of the contract or the first three years of the deal? Manning's deal averaged out to just over $18 million a season, but $23 million over the first three years. The latter figure is clearly the card Condon has been playing to the Saints.
I have one small problem with this logic.
That contract for $23 million DOESN'T EXIST ANYMORE!
Manning was released and if it he had truly been worth that much why couldn't he get a contract from Denver that matched that?
Manning's new contract only gives him $18 million the first year, $20 million in the second, third, fourth and fifth. It's a deal that essentially is 5 years, $96 million with some language that helps the Broncos protect their investment.
Some will argue that Manning is coming off an injury thus not worth as much. True, but there's an even bigger reason why he didn't get that astronomical figure he got in Indy: no team can afford it. Paying one player that much money would cripple the rest of the franchise.
The Saints are no different. They simply can't afford Brees at $23 million.
But there is a solution to this dilemma that would make Brees the highest-paid player in the NFL without completely handcuffing the rest of the team.
Meet in the middle.
$23 million is too expensive. $18 million is too cheap.
Brees has done wonders as a Saint. Given where this franchise was before he arrived, you could call him a hero to this town. He is THE BEST player to ever wear the black & gold. And yes, quantifying a numeric value for what he's done for this team, this city and this region is nearly impossible. He deserves the world, but this isn't the NBA. It's the NFL, the ultimate team sport. Brees understands this more than anyone. He needs teammates in other key positions to win and his teammates realize that Brees gives them the best chance of getting to a Super Bowl. It's probably why five different well-established core veterans agreed to restructure their contracts.
The parameters of a new deal have been set and they've been in place for a long time.