Drew Brees is in the last year of his contract.  This is the first time this has happened in his Saint career.   The two sides are not negotiating a new contract extension.  All signs are pointing to the possibility that 2017 could be his last year in the Big Easy.

As an outsider looking in and with no connections worth mentioning I can only speculate based on what I’ve seen and read.  The sticking point in the last contract was not about money so much as about the length of the contract.  Saints wanted to keep it short term.  Brees wanted a long term deal.  Brees blinked.  I don’t think the Saints will budge on this point.  If Brees comes back in 2018, I think it will be on another short term contract, 1 year or perhaps 2 years.  It won’t be a 4 year or 5 year deal like he wants.  Could they compromise on some intermediate number, like 3 years?  Possibly, but they’re not talking.

Why would the Saints insist on a short term deal?  The answer to that one is fairly easy.  Brees isn’t getting any younger any time soon.  Saints don’t want to be left holding the bag if his production suddenly takes a sharp decline.  And from Brees’ perspective, he wants the guarantees a long term deal would give him should that happen, whether due to age or injury.  But just because the Saints are unwilling to take the gamble, doesn’t mean all of the other 31 teams will be similarly reticent.  Somebody is going to be willing to give him the contract he’s looking for.  Look what Houston gave Osweiler.  Franchise quarterbacks are in short supply.

So, I think we’ve established what Brees would have to give up in order to stay beyond 2017 — the long term contract.  My guess would be the Saints are willing to continue with the short term 1 or 2-year deals.  The question now becomes why would Brees give that up when it’s (probably) available to him on the free market?  Let’s examine his priorities (or at least the priorities I would think somebody in his position would have).

Brees’ priorities at this stage of his career: 1) make bank; 2) win another chip; 3) break as many records as possible.  I might or might not have these listed in correct order, but I believe these are his top 3.  On making bank, hey, I don’t begrudge him from wanting to make as much money as he can.  I would do the same in his shoes.  I’ve never once in my life ever gone to my employer and offered to take a paycut.  I doubt many of you have, either.  On winning another chip, well, of course he does.  Everybody wants to win, and he’s more competitive than most (understatement).  But it’s not just about winning another Superbowl, all this losing has got to be a real drag for Drew Brees.  Not only are the Saints not winning Superbowls anymore, they’re not even relevant on the national scene anymore.  And, like I said, he’s a competitive guy.  He has to be thinking about his legacy.   People are going to look at all the stats and say, great, but he only had the 1 chip.  Brady has 5.  Manning has 2.  Favre has 1.  If he wants to be considered best ever or 2nd best ever, he needs more than just 1 Superbowl win.  The third thing I mentioned was breaking records.  He wants to break records.  It is what it is.  Why else is he still in the game still trying to score on the final play down by 2 scores?  Reps?  No, if reps were that important the first team would have played more in preseason.

By staying in New Orleans he can absolutely keep that #3 priority.  He can set all kinds of passing records in this offense.  But #1 (making bank) is more problematic.  He can make it on a yearly basis, but the guaranteed big payoff isn’t there.  Not here.  And, saddest of all for us fans, priority #2 (winning another Superbowl) doesn’t look like it’s going to happen in New Orleans.  Saints have just been unable to field even an average defense.  It’s probably the single biggest failing of the Payton/Loomis era.  You had a future Hall of Fame quarterback lighting up the league and you couldn’t even support him with a mediocre defense.  Saints have tried, but despite their efforts to put together a decent defense, they’ve been bottom feeders on defense since 2012 (except for 2013).  Three back to back to back 7-9 seasons, and yet another 0-2 start in 2017 does nothing to bolster Brees’ confidence about getting another chip in New Orleans.

Why would the Saints want to keep Brees?  Well, that’s the dumbest question.  He’s a great player who has been both available to play and uberly productive.  Why would they be okay with letting him walk?  The answer to that would be 1) they’d prefer that to the risk of a long contract and having his production fall; and 2) they can use the cap savings of replacing his contract with a much cheaper rookie contract to try to build up the rest of the roster.

Could there be a trade?  That’s possible.  I know Brees has the no-trade clause in the contract, but that’s there to protect him from getting traded to a loser.  He can waive that clause if he approves the trade.  Saints would get a draft pick for him.  Brees would get a chance to play for another Superbowl.  It would be a win for both sides.  A trade only happens if he gets traded to a contender and if the Saints are dead in the water as the trade deadline approaches.

Could the Saints let him walk in FA and draft a quarterback?  Absolutely, that could happen.  If I know Payton (and if he’s still in charge) he’ll push his chips to the middle of the table and go all in on who he feels is the top quarterback in the draft.  If Cleveland has the top pick (or maybe the Rams) and they feel good with Kizer (or Goff) they might be willing to make a deal (and the Saints might not have to move up very far) to make it happen.  If the Saints are smart about it (which they won’t be) they can lie low in free agency in 2017 and recoup a 3rd round pick in 2018 as a compensatory pick for losing Brees.  (Saints fans are probably asking, what the heck is a compensatory pick?)   If they let Kenny Vaccaro walk, they could also recoup a compensatory pick for him.  It all depends on the contract and I think how much the player plays for his new team.

What are my predictions?  I’m only guessing here, but my guess is this is probably his last year in New Orleans.  Unless the Saints turn the season around, which doesn’t really seem likely at this point, I think he’ll realize he’s not going to be able to win another Superbowl in New Orleans.  Couple that with the Saints unwilling to offer a long term contract, all he has to keep him here is the chance to break records.