Monday, 18 July 2016 18:31

New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees unlikely to agree to deal in near future

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breesby Jim W. Miller

It’s hard to write about anything else in sports today after watching the Classic two-man race for the British Open championship Sunday at Royal Troon. Yes, I still call it the “British” Open because to do otherwise is elitist, snooty and downright discriminatory to all the other “opens” in golf. Forgive my propensities toward the peasantry, but I will talk more about golf later.

Today, only a week from the opening of Saints training camp, the big question locally is whether or not the Saints and QB Drew Brees will agree on a new contract before opening day. My bet is they won’t, for a number of reasons, but the best is that contracts do not generally get done unless either, or both, sides feel the pressure of a deadline. That does not exist with Brees under contract for the 2016 season.

Another reason is that an agent always argues that “the market," and nothing else, dictates a player’s value. The Saints have no compelling reason to agree to demands whose only rationale is “the market.” The market is insane. Andrew Luck recently became the NFL's highest-paid player after signing a five-year, $122.97 million contract extension with the Colts. You can Google "highest paid NFL quarterbacks" and you get an idea of what agent Tom Condon is likely to demand for a client whose body of work is superior in most respects to the players listed. Brees averages $20 million a year, which barely cracks the Top Ten, and you know Condon wants more.

The other reason I don't think a new contract is at hand is because the Saints must look at REALITY as another factor. At 37, Brees is an aging quarterback whose team has had three losing seasons in the past four years. His statistics have declined every year over the past four years. His yardage totals have dipped each year since 2011, which may not so much a sign of slowing down, because Brees led the league in passing yards every year except for 2013. He only threw 32 touchdown passes last year and only 33 the year before (he threw 46 in 2011). The more nuanced approach shows a guy who is aging well, continuing to put up massive numbers, and generally hampered by the fact his team has a terrible defense.

Some critics say Brees’ current contract is one reason the team has declined, because it can’t afford to keep its better players with so much tied up in one player. I think it’s more bad drafts and miscalculation on some free agents, but one thing that can’t be denied is the inevitable decline of an aging player. We haven’t seen that yet, and Who Dat Nation hopes we don’t this year. But the Saints are not inclined to gamble additional money on that chance.

A contract demand now is likely in the range of four years and $100 million, with more than $65 million guaranteed. Other than paying for a year in which Brees is already locked in, such a contract gives the team nothing and would even make Brees essentially uncuttable through the 2018 season when he will be 40. That would be an issue only if Brees should experience a sudden decline similar to Peyton Manning, but even Peyton got old. On the other hand, if the Saints do nothing, Brees has a big year and the team does well, they can respond as best they can to the demands of a 38-year-old free agent quarterback. But if the Saints do not return to the playoffs, they will have a lot more money at hand to determine their future. There is no compelling reason why the team should overpay now.

A final word about the British Open: The match between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson was the rare golfing extravaganza in which two guys nearly lapped the field. We’ve seen one guy play Secretariat-at-the-Belmont before in Tiger Woods’ 15-stroke annihilation of the field at the 2000 U.S. Open (see note above!). That was the pinnacle of runaways, but on Sunday both Stenson and Mickelson seemed to be playing a different game.

Although Stenson and Mickelson were fortunate that their Friday and Saturday tee-times avoided much of the late-day winds and rain that bedeviled Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, their mastery of blind shots over the gorse and through the gnarly two-foot rough was unequaled among the rest of the field. In fact, Stenson and Mickelson were neck and neck until Stenson broke away with a 50-foot birdie putt on 15.

The Swede won his first title by three strokes at a remarkable 20-under par, a record for a major. Phil finished 11 strokes ahead of his nearest challenger, who could become a great future trivia question. Of course, we will remember it here as third place went to former Kentucky star and SEC champion, J.B. Holmes.

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