The Saints have mortgaged their future in order to get a ring in the present, and it’s yet to pay off. They’re running out of time.
It’s become an annual event. Each year, around the time of free agency, New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis restructures quarterback Drew Brees‘ deal, pushing his his cap hit off into future years. The cap space they open up in the process is used to fill holes on the roster, hoping to put together one last championship run in the Brees-Sean Payton era.
The problem is, they haven’t gone all the way yet. Gaping holes on defense have ravaged certain seasons, and historically significant heartbreaks have halted those teams that were Super Bowl-caliber.
This year’s annual restructuring came early Thursday morning when the Saints converted some of his 2019 base salary into bonus money, which can be prorated over future years of a deal. That means Brees is technically under contract for 2019, 2020 and 2021, but the final two years will void automatically after this season and only exist for the purpose of pushing off Brees’ salary cap hit.
So essentially, if Brees retires after 2019 – which seems increasingly likely – the Saints will have to pay him in 2020 when he’s at home spending his free time with his kids.
How much, you ask? A lot. The Saints cleared $10.8 million in cap space to spend this season, combining it with previous years’ restructures to create a total of $21.3 million in dead cap that they’ll owe Brees in 2020. Ouch.
As New Orleans kicks the can further ahead, so to speak, the pressure to make the procrastination pay off mounts. Being strapped for cash in future offseasons will be a much easier pill for the Saints to swallow if they’re sitting on the previous year’s Lombardi trophy.
Before they restructured Brees’ deal, the Saints were looking at less than $5 million in cap space to plug a substantial number of holes. Since the restructuring, the Saints signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown to a three-year, $15 million deal.
With some potential cap-saving cuts looming – Cam Meredith comes to mind – the Saints will look to add a productive pass-catching tight end. Former Oakland Raider Jared Cook visited New Orleans Thursday, and he’d be the ideal fit.
Each of the last two seasons, the Saints have felt like they had a good enough team to win a Super Bowl. Both ended in historically crushing – and unlucky – fashion, whether it be the Minneapolis Miracle against the Vikings or the No-Call against the Rams.
But the what-ifs won’t cut it when they’re paying Brees a fortune to take his kids to the park. The window to make all of the innovative accounting worthwhile is closing, and it’s closing fast.