Analysis: Brees contract makes sense, sets stage for Saints offseason

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Saints QB Drew Brees #9
Saints QB Drew Brees (#9) may have new targets and a bolstered defense to help his cause in 2018 (File Photo: Parker Waters).

It is a good thing that Zack Strief invited Drew Brees to his retirement party.

With Strief gone, only Brees remains from the original Mickey Loomis-Sean Payton regime which went on the clock in 2006.

The clock was ticking.

Perhaps contract negotiations were progressing. Perhaps they were not going anywhere. Who knows? The fact is that Brees was in the house with Loomis and a day later, a deal was done.

At this point, who cares?

Brees is still a Saint, agreeing to a two-year deal worth $50 million, including $27 million in guarantees. The Saints avoided a $18 million cap hit by getting the deal done prior to the start of the league year Wednesday.

While common sense tells you that a deal was bound to get done by two motivated parties, it is never that easy, thus, the perilously close-to-the-deadline agreement consummated by both parties while fans were sweating it out.

Brees did not want to leave. He knows he can win in New Orleans, perhaps one more Super Bowl before his illustrious career ends. He knows he would not have a better situation with anyone else, given his comfort zone with Payton and the talent on hand.

When you weigh all aspects of the deal, it is a good deal.

Jimmy Garappolo is the highest paid quarterback in the league while Matthew Stafford ranks second. Derek Carr’s deal with Oakland is at virtually the same level as the deal Brees just agreed to. Kirk Cousins is poised to get Stafford-type money from the Vikings.

The numbers tell the story.

Brees has led the Saints to a Super Bowl title, two NFC championship game appearances and six playoff appearances. He has 70,445 career passing yards, the third-most in NFL history and will become the all-time leader four or five games into the 2018 season. He is the all-time leader in completion percentage in league history (66.9 percent). He is tied for third in touchdown passes (488) in NFL history with Tom Brady, trailing only Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Favre (508). He has been to a franchise-best 10 Pro Bowls and was first-team All-Pro in 2006.

For that matter, he set an NFL record, completing 72 percent of his passes in the 2017 season.

With regard to the future at quarterback post-Brees, the elephant in the room is growing larger. This will be the last contract for Brees with the Saints, barring a virtual miracle.

Now that the deal is done with Brees and he will be here for at least another season and most likely two years, it is high time that the Saints take a serious look at the future of the important position on the field.

The deal allows the Saints some cap room to get other things done in free agency, such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Saints took their shot at Jimmy Graham, but it appears the former New Orleans tight end has chosen to join the Green Bay Packers.

In the Mickey Loomis-Sean Payton regime, the Saints have drafted two quarterbacks.

Sean Canfield came in the seventh round in 2010 from Oregon State. He had no arm strength. Garrett Grayson was a bigger investment, a third-round choice in 2015 out of Colorado State. He simply was not good enough. Former Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin spent time with the team in 2013-14 after going undrafted. He had some moments in the preseason but he could not break through.

Taysom Hill is a player that the Saints like.

He is a superb athlete who made his name on special teams a year ago.

Can he throw the football accurately and strongly enough to play in the league and play at a high enough level to win?

Hill is not young (27), by NFL standards. He has just one year in the league, coming from BYU. Having played at BYU, he served a Mormon mission in Australia from 2009 through 2011, thus, the advanced age.

At BYU, Hill was prone to injuries, including a knee injury in 2012, a fractured leg in 2013 and a lisfranc fracture in 2015 and an elbow injury in 2016.

As a result, it is very difficult to get a good read on Hill and his abilities. He did benefit from playing in a pro-style offense at BYU.

He signed with Green Bay in 2017, playing in three preseason games, going 14-for-20 and throwing for two scores while running for a third score. He was waived and was claimed by the Saints. The Packers liked him and hoped he would clear waivers but the Saints pounced on him.

If New Orleans does not invest in a quarterback in the upcoming draft, look for Hill to get a very long look in the 2018 preseason at quarterback.

Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes were players available last year that the Saints liked. Interestingly, they sandwiched the pick New Orleans made, with Mahomes going 11th to Kansas City and Watson going 13th to Houston.

The Saints went with Marshon Lattimore and we all know how that turned out as a brilliant investment.

Without question, it is time to finally bite the bullet, swallow hard and make the investment in the most important position on the team for the future. Brees is the present. He is an iconic player, truly one of the best in NFL history and the best, most accomplished player in franchise history, with all due respect to Rickey Jackson.

Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen figure to be gone by the time the Saints pick at No. 27, barring a trade to move up by New Orleans. If you are looking ahead to the 2019 draft, the early morning line has Missouri’s Drew Lock, Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, Jacob Eason of Washington and even former Calvary Baptist star Shea Patterson, now of Michigan, as perhaps first-round picks.

We have heard the murmuring about Baker Mayfield. There is a little smoke there. It is too early and too speculative to say there is fire. The young man burns with competitive fire but there are maturity and arrogance issues that must concern the Saints, who clearly have changed the culture of the locker room and team by purging themselves of players with character issues over the last couple of years.

I have always maintained that Payton and Brees were virtually joined at the hip, inseparable. Payton’s success is largely tied to Brees and the success of Brees here is largely tied to Payton. Both are superb at what they do.

If Payton is to remain post-Brees in New Orleans, he needs a quarterback to work and grow with.

Payton is the fourth longest tenured head coach in the NFL, behind only Bill Belichick, Marvin Lewis and Mike McCarthy. After wandering in the wilderness from 2014-16, the Saints and Payton are back on track, rejuvenated.

At the age of 39 (Brees turns 40 on Jan. 15, 2019), Brees still has game. He proved that in 2017. Still, there is little doubt that his physical skills have diminished over time, at least slightly. The question is how soon his primary skills will diminish dramatically? Time waits for no one. It will happen.

In the case of Brees and Tom Brady, their work ethic and competitive nature is off the charts. They are clear exceptions to the rule of thumb about players being done by the mid-30’s.

That Brees was determined to stay in New Orleans is admirable. What he has done here is undeniable. What he can still do here is intriguing. The clock it ticking. The window of opportunity for Brees and the Saints to win another Super Bowl is closing. With another good offseason, the Saints can get there with Brees as their leader.

With Strief gone, only Brees remains from the original Loomis-Payton regime which went on the clock in 2006.

Then, Brees can invite Strief to his retirement party as the duo celebrates with a pair of Lombardi trophies. That would bring a fitting conclusion to what has been a dynamic, sometimes turbulent, extremely successful and joyous regime. That would be a timeless experience.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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