Lost in the hoopla that surrounds the impending free agency of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is that Saints quarterback Drew Brees is facing the same set of circumstances. The difference? Brees has a significantly higher dead cap hit ($21.7M vs. $13.5M for Brady) regardless of whether he is on the roster or not and he is yet to commit to playing in 2020.
“I wanted to give it at least a few weeks, months, postseason, just to take a deep breath and decompress a little bit and get some time with the family and then just reassess,” Brees said via ESPN’s NFL Live.
Unlike Brady, who has said for several years that he plans on playing until he is 45 and has, in fact, said he plans on playing in 2020, Brees has yet to commit. Although, if he does return, it will only be for the Saints.
“We’d love to have Drew back, and if he wants to be back then we’ll go from there. I’m assuming that he does,” Saints owner Mickey Loomis said at the Pro Bowl practice. “I don’t think it’s any different than it’s been the last few years.”
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Despite missing five games with a thumb injury, Brees put together a solid season at age 40 as he surpassed Peyton Manning for most career touchdown passes in NFL history. For the regular season, Brees completed a league-best 74.3 percent of his passes for 2,979 yards, 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions with a 116.5 passer rating. Unfortunately, the Saints season ended in the Wild Card round with an overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Saints are in an interesting spot when it comes to their quarterback position. In addition to Brees becoming a free agent, backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is also set to become an unrestricted free agent. Bridgewater led the Saints to a 5-0 record in Brees’ absence this season. Bridgewater threw nine touchdowns to just two interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,384 yards. The former Vikings first-round draft pick signed a one-year, $7.25M contract to return to the Saints in 2020. After a successful run as a starter, he will likely get an opportunity elsewhere if not with the Saints.
What could make the situation even murkier is the limited cap space, roughly $12-14 million, available in 2020. Needless to say, the direction the Saints go in will be greatly influenced by Brees and what he decides to do for next season.