Armed with an exceptional dose of leverage, Drew Brees imposed a negotiating deadline that succeeded in spurring action for a lucrative new contract.
Brees and the New Orleans Saints agreed on a contract extension Wednesday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the deal. He'll receive $44.25 million fully guaranteed over the next two years and gets more than the $20 million in 2016, Rapoport added. Brees also received a $30 million signing bonus, per Rapoport.
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported it's a five-year contract that voids down to two years and has a no-trade clause, per sources informed of the extension. Brees' salary-cap number for 2016 has been lowered significantly by the contract.
"Like I always said, these contract situations are just part of the process," said Brees, who mentioned he plans to play more than two more NFL seasons. "Both sides are very happy. Certainly, I'm very happy. I want to play my entire career here ... I'll be here for as long as they want me."
Content to earn $19.75 million in the final season of a five-year, $100 million contract, Brees warned that he would cease negotiations once the season kicks off this weekend. He held inordinate leverage with knowledge that the 2017 franchise tag would carry a prohibitive cap charge of $43.2 million.
If the Saints were unwilling to meet that number, Brees could have threatened to leave for the highest bidder next March. In other words, this was set up as a tricky contract conundrum all offseason.
Even if New Orleans' decision makers were reluctant to commit to a 37-year-old quarterback into the next decade, they can take solace in the quality of Brees' late-season game film as he battled through "horrible, miserable pain" due to a torn plantar fascia and a rotator cuff injury in his throwing arm.
Brees finished 2015 with numbers remarkably similar to those from his 2009 Super Bowl campaign. He's the lone quarterback to generate a QBR score of 70 or higher in each of the past three seasons.
Although one offensive coordinator recently opined to ESPN.com Mike Sando that Brees' accuracy and arm talent decreased for the first time last season, another defensive coach took issue with the notion of an impending decline.
"I don't see the deterioration," the defensive coach said. "He is a victim of his cast of characters. Let's recreate the quarterback challenge in Honolulu and watch him put the ball in the laundry cart from 35 yards away."
Brees is not only the face of the organization, but also the most important player ever to sport a Saints uniform.
From the inception of the franchise in 1967 through 2005, New Orleans finished with a top-five offense just twice. Since Brees arrived as one of the two greatest free agents in NFL history a decade ago, his offense had placed in the top five every year with the exception of a sixth-place finish in 2010.