Drew Brees

Bears Were “In The Running” For Tom Brady

It seems like just yesterday that the Tom Brady free agency rumors were dominating the NFL news cycle. And while Brady will be making his much-anticipated debut for the Buccaneers this afternoon, perhaps he instead could have been suiting up for the Bears in their Week 1 matchup against the Lions.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Bears — who took a look at every QB available on the market before swinging a trade for Nick Foles — made an offer to Brady. It’s unclear what that offer looked like, but Rapoport says Chicago was indeed in the running, though Brady was not particularly keen on signing with a cold-weather club.

Ultimately, the Florida sunshine and Tampa’s loaded receiving corps helped lure Brady to the Bucs. The Bears, despite the trade for Foles and the reworked contract they gave him, have elected to kick off the regular season with embattled signal-caller Mitch Trubisky under center.

Rapoport — along with Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com — adds that there was mutual interest between Brady and the Saints when it was unclear if Drew Brees was going to retire or not. We already wrote about the New Orleans-Brady connection back in June, so this is not exactly news.

Interestingly, though, Jeff Duncan of The Athletic says that the Saints were Brady’s preferred landing spot if Brees had elected to head to the broadcasting booth in 2020 (Twitter link). Duncan adds that Brees was closer to retirement than many realize, so instead of seeing the two 40-something QBs battle each other today, we might have seen Brady in black-and-gold taking on Brees’ new backup and former Tampa starter Jameis Winston.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Drew Brees Signs With NBC Sports

Drew Brees already has his post-playing career lined up. The longtime Saints quarterback has signed a broadcasting deal with NBC, sources told Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.

We heard just a few days ago that ESPN was chasing Brees, and apparently NBC had a more appealing offer. Brees will be “groomed as the potential replacement for Cris Collinsworth” on ‘Sunday Night Football’ broadcasts, sources told Marchand. Of course, this deal won’t take effect until after Brees decides to hang up his cleats. He’s back in New Orleans for at least one more season. Saints coach Sean Payton recently let slip that Brees was “coming back for his final season,” although it’s possible he misspoke.

It’s been reported for a while now that the Saints view Taysom Hill as Brees’ successor, and that they’re anxious to increase his role on offense. All the moves that they’ve made this offseason indicate they’re going all-in on one last Super Bowl run with Brees in 2020, like signing aging vets Malcolm Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders.

It looks like the ‘Sunday Night Football’ broadcast is getting a total makeover, as Marchand has already reported that Mike Tirico is going to take over for Al Michaels as the play-by-play caller after the 2022 Super Bowl. Brees isn’t going to take the reins on SNF immediately either. Brees “is expected to start as a game analyst on Notre Dame football and as a studio analyst for ‘Football Night in America,’” before eventually taking over for Collinsworth, Marchand writes.

Marchand also notes that ESPN’s offer was thought to be in the $6MM annually range, and that NBC’s offer was “competitive with it” financially but that they “sold him on it being the best place to succeed.” Obviously, Brees wants to avoid an experience like Jason Witten had at ESPN on ‘Monday Night Football,’ and it sounds like the chance to get eased in appealed to him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

ESPN Chasing Saints’ Drew Brees

Last month, Drew Brees inked a new two-year, $50MM deal to return to the Saints and continue his playing career. However, that hasn’t stopped ESPN from courting Brees for their Monday Night Football booth with an eye on signing him once he retires (via Andrew Marchand of the New York Post). 

[RELATED: Saints CB Janoris Jenkins Renegotiates Contract]

It’s no surprise that ESPN wants to add the charismatic star to its lineup. Although Brees is contracted to play through the 2021 season, it’s possible that Brees may only be coming back for one more year. Recently, head coach Sean Payton told ESPN that Brees is “coming back for his final season.” It’s possible that Payton misspoke, but that could also be an indication that Brees is heading into his final campaign.

The Saints are planning to transition from the future Hall of Famer to Taysom Hill. This year, Hill will take on a much larger role in the offense. If all goes well, and Brees decides to move on to broadcasting or anything else, Hill may stand alone as the Saints’ starter in ’21.

An offer from ESPN could play a factor in Brees’ decision next year. While the networks can’t compete with Brees’ NFL dollars, the QB could still land a lucrative deal in the broadcast booth. Tony Romo, for example, signed a ten-year, $180MM deal with CBS. ESPN isn’t using that as “the measuring stick” for Brees, Marchand writes, but they are believed to be dangling a deal worth about $6.5MM/year. That’s similar to what Jon Gruden made towards the end of his MNF tenure.

Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. Last year, he completed 74% of his throws with 27 touchdown passes in just eleven contests.

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Extra Points: Brees, Kuechly, O’Brien

Saints coach Sean Payton might’ve accidentally let some big news slip this week. Appearing on ESPN’s ‘Get Up,’ Payton said “the unique situation with our team and quarterback Drew Brees, he’s announced he’s coming back for his final season,” via Katherine Terrell of The Athletic. When Brees elected not to retire this offseason, he said he’d be taking things year by year and didn’t make any official proclamations about this being his last campaign.

Either Payton misspoke, or he let the cat out of the bag. We’ve heard for a while now that the Saints eventually want Taysom Hill to take over as the starting quarterback, and that they plan on utilizing Hill even more this coming season. All the moves they’ve made so far point to one last run with Brees, so it would make sense if he has in fact told them this is his final ride. They’ve signed a 32-year-old Malcolm Jenkins and a 33-year-old Emmanuel Sanders, so they’re clearly all-in on 2020.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of NFC South retirements, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly surprisingly decided to hang up his cleats this offseason. Interestingly, Carolina still hasn’t officially placed him on the reserve/retired list, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. Before fans get excited, that’s likely because the Panthers can add $6MM in cap space by waiting until after June 1st to make the move, Person notes. Additionally, a source close to the former Defensive Player of the Year told Person that he has had “no second thoughts” about his decision to retire. We’ve heard the former All-Pro could be eyeing a coaching/consulting gig, and Person writes he has also explored broadcasting opportunities. Kuechly is still only 28, so there’s plenty of time for him to change his mind about his playing career.
  • Texans coach Bill O’Brien caught a lot of flak for his trade of Deandre Hopkins and what he was able to get back in return, and he sought to explain himself a bit Friday. “It was in the best interest of our team. DeAndre Hopkins was a great football player. We loved DeAndre Hopkins He had three years left on his deal and he wanted a raise. David Johnson is going to be a great addition to our football team,” O’Brien said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). O’Brien seemed to confirm that Hopkins’ desire to sweeten his deal was a driving force behind the shocking trade. It’ll be very interesting to see how O’Brien handles the locker room and growing backlash from the fanbase.

Bills, Packers Pursued Emmanuel Sanders

Emmanuel Sanders became the third-highest-paid wide receiver free agent this offseason, trailing younger cogs Amari Cooper and Robby Anderson. But before signing a two-year, $16MM Saints deal, the veteran received extensive interest on the market.

In addition to the 49ers wanting to retain him and some interest from the Cowboys and Jets, two 2019 playoff teams sought Sanders. The Bills and Packers were in the mix for the 33-year-old wideout, Sanders confirmed.

Both teams contacted him on the first day of the legal tampering period, as did the 49ers. While the Bills discussed a deal with Sanders, they reached an agreement to acquire Stefon Diggs less than an hour after the sides’ phone call.

I spoke with the Bills for a little bit and I told them, ‘Let me think about the idea; give me a night,'” Sanders said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show (audio link). “And 30 minutes later the Stefon Diggs deal went through and I was like, ‘OK.’ So then I kind of waited. I was talking to Green Bay; I was talking to the Niners, just trying to figure out what type of deal, what type of money we’re talking about. And then the Saints called. I was ecstatic about them, the opportunity to play with Drew Brees, and the numbers made sense.”

While Buffalo unloaded a major asset to bolster its receiving corps with a younger player, Green Bay took the cheaper route in signing Devin Funchess. The Packers figure to still be in the market for receivers when the draft opens. Their Davante Adams sidekick contingent has not panned out, leaving the Packers with a clear need. The 49ers acquired the No. 13 overall pick from the Colts in the DeForest Buckner trade, and they also will likely be in the running for a first-round wide receiver.

Sanders said he signed with the Saints because of their consistent offense reminding him of his first season with the Broncos, in 2014, and because of Brees’ two-year contract. It is not yet known if Brees will play in 2021, but Sanders appears to be rooting for that to happen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Brees, Mariota, Apple

Let’s take a closer look at the details of a few recently-signed free agent contracts:

AFC

  • Marcus Mariota, QB (Raiders): Two years, $17.6MM $7.5MM guaranteed. $2.4MM in incentives available in 2020 (60% snaps). $1.5MM in playtime and win incentives. $10MM in similar incentives available in 2021. $2MM in playoff/Super Bowl wins each year. $12MM 2021 salary escalator (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).
  • Eli Apple, QB (Raiders): One year, $6MM. Fully guaranteed. $500K available via incentives (Twitter link via Garafolo.
  • Pierre Desir, CB (Jets): One year, ~$3.75MM. Max value of $5.5MM via incentives (Twitter link via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News).
  • Chad Henne, QB (Chiefs): Two years, $3.25MM. $2MM guaranteed. Max value of $7.25MM (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com).
  • Nelson Agholor, WR (Raiders): One year, veteran salary benefit. $887K guaranteed. $137K signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).

NFC

  • Drew Brees, QB (Saints): Four years, $100MM. $25MM guaranteed. Void years used in 2022-23. Brees receives no-trade clause and no franchise/transition tag can be used after 2021 (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Jalen Mills, DB (Eagles): One, $4MM. Up to $1MM available via incentives (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio).
  • Thomas Davis, LB (Redskins): One year, $3.5MM. $250K available via incentives (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Shon Coleman, T (49ers): One year, $2.2MM. $1.37MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Miles Killebrew, S (Lions): One year, $2MM. $1.137MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Jayron Kearse, S (Lions): One year, $2MM. Up to $1.25MM available via incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Pharoh Cooper, WR (Panthers): One year, $1.21MM. $300K signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).

Contract Details: Bridgewater, Panthers, Vaitai, Lions, Byrd, Patriots, Brees, Saints

The latest notes on all of the contracts being handed out around the league:

  • QB Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers: signed. Bridgewater got a three-year deal worth $63MM and a whopping $40MM of that is guaranteed in the first two years, according to David Newton of ESPN.com. He got a $15MM signing bonus to take over for the start of the Matt Rhule era. Newton’s post has the full breakdown on how it’ll be paid out with various workout and roster bonuses.
  • OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Lions: signed. Vaitai’s five-year, $50MM contract includes $20MM guaranteed which will come in the first two years of the deal, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio tweets. Detroit can get out of the pact after that.
  • WR Damiere ByrdPatriots: signed. Byrd’s one-year deal can be worth up to $2.5MM, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network notes in a tweet.
  • QB Drew Brees, Saints: re-signed. Brees’ two-year, $50MM new deal with New Orleans includes a signing bonus of $23MM and a small base salary of only $2MM in year one, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. That structure as well as two voidable years added on for 2022-2023 help keep his 2020 cap hit very low so the Saints can spend more as they gear up for one more Super Bowl with Brees under center.
  • LB Sean Lee, Cowboys: re-signed. Lee is back for one more ride on a one-year, $4.5MM deal with $2MM guaranteed. He actually could earn up to $6.5MM if he hits some playing time incentives, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, although he writes they’re “not-likely-to-be-earned.”
  • S Darian Thompson, Cowboys: re-signed. Thompson is getting a two-year deal worth $2.5MM, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He’s getting a $200K signing bonus and can earn an extra $250K with playing time escalators.
  • WR Cody Core, Giants: re-signed. New York locked up the special teams ace who barely plays on offense, and he got paid handsomely. Core will be getting $4MM over a two-year deal, Wilson tweets. Only $1MM of it is guaranteed however.
  • S Jordan PoyerBills: extension. The full details are in on Poyer’s new pact. Poyer had two new years added on and will now make $22.7MM over the next three years with $13MM of that being guaranteed, Wilson tweets. He also got a $3MM signing bonus. In a separate tweet, Wilson notes that Poyer has an annual $500K interception incentive he can earn.

Saints, Drew Brees Agree To Deal

No surprise here. Drew Brees and the Saints have agreed to a brand new deal, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

Brees has re-upped with the team on a two-year, $50MM deal. Long ago, he confirmed that he would not be leaving the Saints, so it was just a matter of years and money.

The 19-year veteran turned down a two-year, $60M fully guaranteed deal from the Cardinals in 2018 to sign with the Saints, and he’s back on the same terms — two years, $50MM — he signed for then. This will almost certainly allow Brees to finish his career in New Orleans.

Brees, 41, is still playing at an extremely high level. The Saints, meanwhile, are also looking ahead. They’ll pass the torch from Brees to Taysom Hill this year – all while moving on from proven vet Teddy Bridgewater.

This is the fifth contract Brees has signed with New Orleans. Arriving in 2006, Brees has become by far the best and most important player in franchise history. He has become the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes and moved the Saints’ playoff win total from one to nine.

The future first-ballot Hall of Famer finished second in the 2018 MVP voting and looked sharp upon returning from his thumb injury last season, completing 74% of his throws for a second straight season and throwing 27 touchdown passes in just 11 games. While he may cede more time to Hill this season, the Saints’ best chance at another Super Bowl title will almost certainly involve Brees.

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Drew Brees Not Expected To Demand “Top Dollar”

Drew Brees has already announced that not only will he play in 2020, but he won’t suit up for any team other than the Saints. Additionally, while Brees could certainly push for a hefty contract (even without interest from competing teams), he’s not expected to demand “top dollar” from New Orleans, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Now 41 years old, Brees earned $25MM annually under the terms of his most recent two-year deal with the Saints. Per Rapoport, Brees is expected to target that same level of salary on his new pact, despite the fact that he could almost surely command $30MM+ from New Orleans.

As of late February, Brees hadn’t discussed a fresh deal with the Saints, but he had been expected to re-sign before the start of the new league year. That would be beneficial to New Orleans, who used void years — which could be tacked on the Saints’ salary cap as dead money — on Brees’ latest pact.

However, that timeline could get complicated. Brees won’t sign a new deal until a new CBA has been ratified, which could come as early as Saturday. Free agency had been set to open next Wednesday, but that may be postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Regardless, Brees is fully expected back in New Orleans for the 2020 campaign. And by accepting less money than he’s worth on the open market, Brees could help the perpetually cap-strapped Saints add more talent around him.

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Latest On Drew Brees, Saints

The Saints’ future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback has forged a much simpler offseason path than the Patriots’. With Tom Brady uncertain to come back to New England, thus hitting the Pats with dead money via the void-years tactic the franchise used last summer, fellow free agent Drew Brees will return to the Saints and looks set to help them out on the latter front.

Brees plans to re-sign with the Saints before the March 18 start of the new league year, Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com report (ESPN+ link). This would help the Saints, who used void years to create cap space on Brees’ most recent deal. No extension talks have transpired yet, but the sides will certainly huddle up soon.

If Brees does not agree to a new Saints pact by 3pm CT March 18, the Saints would be hit with $5.4MM in dead money on their 2020 cap sheet. New Orleans finalizing a Brees extension before then would keep a $10.8MM cap charge on its 2021 books but leave Brees dead money out of the 2020 equation. The Saints, per usual, reside near the bottom in available funds. They hold just more than $9MM in cap space.

Before pledging to return to the Saints, the 41-year-old quarterback said for weeks he would not entertain offers from other teams. Brees operated this way in 2018, when he received a two-year, $60MM offer from the Cardinals. We heard at the time Brees bypassed a better offer — which indicated all $60MM was guaranteed — to continue his New Orleans run. The Cards are now believed to have submitted said offer, which would have made Brees the NFL’s highest-paid player at the time.

The league’s all-time passing leader ignored Arizona’s interest, Graziano and Fowler add, in order to stay in a winning situation. The Cardinals instead signed Sam Bradford that year, before drafting Josh Rosen.

No known outside interest has come Brees’ way this year, but that is probably because the 19-year veteran let it be known early he would stay in New Orleans. Brees’ two-year backup, Teddy Bridgewater, has received interest and is expected to relocate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.