Drew Brees

Contract Details: Brees, Butler, T. Johnson

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

Drew Brees Turned Down Better Offer To Stay With Saints?

As expected, Drew Brees has re-signed with the Saints on a new deal. The contract — worth $50MM and containing $27MM in guarantees — isn’t exactly chump change, but Brees may have had better offers elsewhere.

At least one other team was willing to give Brees $60MM guaranteed over two years, according to Jeff Triplett of ESPN.com. However, there’s some conflicting word on that front. A league source tells Mike Florio of PFT that simply never happened.

The Vikings were among the teams to reach out to Brees, but they are reportedly on the verge of signing Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed three-year deal.

If the $60MM guaranteed offer is true, one has to wonder if it came from the Jets. Although luring Brees away from New Orleans was a Hail Mary, the Jets had to give it a shot given the uninspiring lot of backup options.

Since losing out on the top QBs in this year’s market, the Jets have re-upped Josh McCown and may still be eyeing Teddy Bridgewater. Brees, meanwhile, is back in New Orleans and ready to take another run at a Super Bowl ring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints, Drew Brees Agree To Two-Year Deal

The Saints have agreed to a two-year deal with quarterback Drew Brees, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The new pact is worth $50MM and contains $27MM in guarantees. The deal is technically for three years and $70MM, but the 2020 season will void and is in place only for salary cap purposes, tweets Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Additionally the 2019 season is an option year, and the deal contains a full no-trade clause, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Brees’ current contract with New Orleans will void on March 14, the first day of the 2018 league year, and if no new deal had been reached, the Saints would have incurred $18MM in dead money on their salary cap. By hammering out an extension, the Saints will keep that dead money total at a relatively manageable $6MM in 2018 while retaining their franchise quarterback.

Although he was allowed to speak to other clubs beginning on Monday, Brees was never seriously expected to leave New Orleans. However, he did reportedly speak with the quarterback-needy Vikings, which could have given him a bit of leverage in talks with the Saints.

While Brees didn’t post his typically gaudy offensive statistics in 2017, that was largely by design, as he attempted only 536 pass attempts, his lowest in a full 16-game slate since 2005 (his final year with the Chargers). New Orleans built an offense that doesn’t have to fully rely on Brees, as the club ranked first in rushing DVOA and second in pressure rate allowed. Buoyed by Mark IngramAlvin Kamara, and a strong offensive line, Brees ranked second in passer rating and adjusted net yards per attempt, and third in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA, which measures value on a per-play basis.

Brees expressed his desire to return to the Saints following their loss to the Vikings in the NFC Divisional playoffs. A contract that will give Brees $25MM annually will match Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in terms of average annual salary for third among NFL players, placing him behind Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford ($27MM) and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5MM).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints, Drew Brees Working On Two-Year Deal

The Saints and quarterback Drew Brees are working on a two-year deal that could be completed today, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Brees’ current contract with New Orleans will void on March 14, the first day of the 2018 league year, and if no new deal is reached, the Saints will incur $18MM in dead money on their salary cap. By hammering out an extension, the Saints will keep that dead money total at a relatively manageable $6MM in 2018 while retaining their franchise quarterback.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Reach Out To Drew Brees

The Vikings have called on Drew Brees, a league source tells Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Brees, of course, is widely expected to re-sign with the Saints, but he is technically available and Minnesota plans to leave no stone unturned. Other QB-needy teams have also reached out to Brees, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

The Vikings’ top target in free agency is reportedly Kirk Cousins. But, with several other teams after him, including the cash-flush Jets, the Vikings are exploring backup plans. Realistically, their best Plan B may be their own free agent, Case Keenum, but they may prefer to have Brees if possible.

At least two teams in pursuit of Cousins are reportedly willing to give him a three-year, fully guaranteed contract. It’s unclear as to whether the Vikings are one of those clubs. If they’re not willing to give him that unprecedented deal, then they may have to settle for other QB options. “Settling” for Brees would not be a bad outcome for the Vikings at all as he is arguably the better QB for the here and now.

Brees is 39, but he’s coming off of another spectacular season. In 2017, Brees completed a league-leading 72% of his passes with 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. You don’t need advanced metrics to gauge his value, but Brees graded out as the second-best quarterback in the NFL last season, behind only Tom Brady.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Brees, Watson, Contracts

With less than 24 hours until the exclusive negotiating window closes, the Saints and Drew Brees still haven’t come to an agreement on a new deal, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (via Twitter). If a contract isn’t agreed to by noon eastern time tomorrow, rival teams can make their pitch to the veteran quarterback.

Brees contract officially voids on Wednesday, although the 39-year-old will be allowed to negotiate with teams starting on Monday. If the Saints don’t come to an agreement with Brees before the start of free agency on Wednesday, they’ll have to tolerate $18MM in dead money against their cap. For what it’s worth, we heard in January that the veteran wasn’t planning on testing the market.

The 11-time Pro Bowler had another standout campaign in 2017, completing a career-high 72-percent of his passes for 4,334 yards, 23 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFL…

  • Veteran tight end Ben Watson is contemplating retirement, reports CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). However, the 37-year-old would be willing to continue his playing career if “the opportunity presents itself.” After missing the entire 2016 season due to a torn Achilles, Watson bounced back in 2017 with the Ravens, hauling in 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns. After being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, Watson has also played for the Patriots, Browns, and Saints.
  • Former NFL agent (and current CBS Sports writer) Joel Corry continues to explore the ideal contracts for some of the NFL’s top free agents and extension candidates. Corry believes Le’Veon Bell should pursue a five-year, $71.25MM deal with $19MM in guaranteed money. Corry also focuses on wideouts Jarvis Landry, who he believes should look for a five-year, $75MM deal ($48MM guaranteed), and Allen Robinson (one-year, $10MM, $9MM guaranteed). Tight end Jimmy Graham (four years, $34MM), offensive guard Andrew Norwell (five years, $65MM), and offensive tackle Nate Solder (five year, $72.5MM) were also included in Corry’s analysis.
  • Corry also took a look at the top free agents/extension candidates on defense. The largest suggested contract goes to defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, as Corry suggests a five-year, $97.5MM deal (with $60MM guaranteed). The former agent also analyzed defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (four years, $66MM), defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (five years, $81.25MM), cornerback Trumaine Johnson (five years, $77.5MM), cornerback Kyle Fuller (five years, $67.5MM), and safety Lamarcus Joyner (five years, $57.5MM).

Latest On Saints’ Drew Brees

11:10am: There’s some conflicting word on when Brees is permitted to speak with teams. Both the NFL and NFLPA spokesman George Atallah say that Drew Brees can negotiate with other teams starting on Monday, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (on Twitter).

9:08am: The NFL’s “legal tampering” period gets begins on Monday, but unlike most of the league’s pending free agents, Saints quarterback Drew Brees will not be able to speak with teams, according to Nick Underhill of The Advocate (on Twitter). That’s because Brees has to wait until his contract voids on March 14 in order to explore the market. 

If the Saints do not strike a new deal with Brees before the start of free agency on Wednesday, they’ll be forced to carry $18MM in dead money against their cap. It is widely expected that an extension will be reached, but the deadline provides Brees with leverage in talks, even though he has already stated that he does not plan on testing the open market. In theory, if the Saints do not give Brees an offer to his liking, he can put New Orleans in a serious cap crunch and go elsewhere.

Realistically, agent Tom Condon has probably heard from rival teams that would be interested in signing his client. Although the legal tampering period is designed to give teams an opportunity to speak with prospective free agents, there’s a great deal of talk that goes down at the NFL combine between agents and teams. Condon may not have set out to talk to clubs about Brees in Indianapolis, but he has certainly heard from GMs with interest and has a rough idea of the offers that would be out there for his client, should he deviate from his plans.

Brees is PFR’s No. 2 ranked player in free agency this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:


  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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QB Notes: Brees, Cousins, Bortles, Draft

The Saints and Drew Brees have expressed mutual interest in maintaining their partnership going forward. While the future Hall of Fame quarterback is unlikely to leave when free agency opens, the team’s financial flexibility is greatly impacted if a deal is not reached by March 14, The Times-Picayune’s Josh Katzenstein writes.

If he is not signed by that date, Katzenstein notes Brees’ remaining three years on his contract will void and his remaining signing bonus will count for $18 MM in dead cap space. Knowing the situation the Saints are faced with, Brees and his team have a ton of leverage.

Brees, 39, is likely to look for a multi-year deal but the quarterback has mentioned taking his future one year at a time. Though his passing totals weren’t at the gaudy levels of years past, he was still an effective signal-caller, leading the league in completion percentage and ranking second in passer rating.

It is unlikely the two sides won’t come to an agreement by the deadline, but it is a story to follow.

Here’s more quarterback news from around the league:

  • The Broncos  have a meeting scheduled with Mike McCartney — agent to, among others, Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian and Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta — in Indianapolis while the two sides are in town for the NFL Combine, NBC 9 News’ Mike Klis reports. Per NFL tampering rules, the two sides can not discuss Cousins, but are free to talk about the latter two. Cousins is expected to be a top target of the Broncos once free agency opens.
  • Sticking with Cousins, the Vikings are expected to be strong contenders for the quarterback’s services NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports (Twitter link). In the video clip, Garafolo says he has been told by sources “the whole way” that the Vikes are going to make a strong push for the prized free agent.
  • The Jaguars‘ contract to Blake Bortles is more about freeing up cap space for this year rather than rewarding or showing confidence in the quarterback, overthecap.com’s Jason Fitzgerald writes. “The Jaguars front office should know what Bortles is and I don’t anticipate that this contract will change the fact that they could consider drafting a QB or signing a decent player to be a backup who could be asked to start if things go bad. They really just needed cap space and to that end they did a decent job.”
  • If teams are looking to draft a developmental quarterback, two of the most intriguing names are Lauletta, the Senior Bowl MVP, and Washington State’s Luke Falk, Yahoo’s Charles Robinson tweets. Robinson also notes the Redskins president Bruce Allen went to Lauletta’s Richmond and is very familiar with the quarterback.
  • Though the Dolphins are committed to Ryan Tannehill being their starter in 2018, that does not mean the team won’t look to draft a quarterback with its No. 11 pick in the first round, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson writes. He says the Dolphins were impressed by Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in interviews at the Senior Bowl, though he is expected to be off the board by the time Miami gets on the clock.