The Saints have created a little additional breathing room under the cap this season by converting $5.2MM of Drew Brees‘ base salary into a signing bonus, reports Field Yates of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The move creates $2.6MM of cap room for 2015, since the bonus is prorated over the two years remaining on Brees’ deal.
While the restructure creates cap room this year, it increases Brees’ 2016 cap hit to $30MM, exceeding Ndamukong Suh‘s and Joe Flacco‘s cap numbers and making it the highest in the NFL. Of course, it’s unlikely that the Saints will carry Brees at that $30MM figure next year, but the latest tweaking of his contract makes things a little trickier for New Orleans.
As I observed last week when I examined the Saints’ cap outlook for 2016, no NFL team has more salary on its 2016 books, so addressing Brees’ contract is crucial in order for the club to reduce its cap commitments for next season. Extending the Pro Bowl signal-caller – who is currently battling a shoulder injury – makes the most sense, though a trade, release, or pay cut could also be in play, depending on how this season plays out.
Trading or cutting Brees would leave the Saints with $10MM in dead money on their cap, creating $20MM in cap savings, but they’d have to make that decision quickly. As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com notes (via Twitter), over half of the quarterback’s $19.75MM base salary for 2016 becomes guaranteed on the third day of the league’s waiver period in February.
As for the short-term benefits of the Saints’ reworking of Brees’ contract, head coach Sean Payton says his club is “one short at tight end” and would like to add another player at that position. However, he cautioned that Brees’ contract adjustment wasn’t done for the purpose of adding a single player — it’s more about creating “wiggle room” for typical in-season moves (Twitter links via Evan Woodbery of the Times-Picayune).