Should the Saints restructure Drew Brees' contract? No.
With the help of our Saints Radio Statistician Brian Duvall, we explored the idea of restructuring Brees' deal to provide the Saints with some much needed salary cap relief. Brees' cap figure for the 2013 season is $17.4 million, meaning that's how much of his pay the Saints have to include when calculating how much he counts against the approximately $120 million cap for NFL teams.
The Saints are roughly 10 million dollars over cap. The deadline to get under the salary cap is March 12th, the start of free agency and the new league year.
The Saints are reportedly trying to restructure contracts for defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma. While those moves would provide some relief, it's not going to fix the cap situation the Saints are in now. On the surface it looks as though a restructure of Brees' contract would do wonders for the Saints.
Not so fast!
The Saints could convert $8.8 million of his $9.75 million base salary for 2013 to guaranteed pay out... making his 2013 salary at the 10 year plus veteran minimum of $940k. That move would drop the cap number by $6.6 million. Pretty nice right? Wait, there is a significant catch.
The $8.8 million would then be spread out over the remaining 4 years of the contract, making his 2014 cap hit an eye popping $20.6 million. In 2015 it would balloon to $28.6 million, and in the final year (2016) his cap figure would be $29.6 million. Each year it grows by 2.2 million for a guaranteed pay out. Under this scenario Brees would not lose any money, but it could increase the chances of him getting... yes ... released... gasp! See where I am going here? The Saints are pretty much stuck with that record breaking deal of a year ago.
The salary cap is not expected to expand robustly until 2015, when new TV contracts kick in from the new CBA. If the Saints restructured Brees' deal as proposed in this scenario, he would account for 30% of cap space for the next 2 years. OUCH! That is if they restructure his 2013 base salary. Furthermore, if the Saints restructure Brees' 2013 base salary, and convert it to guaranteed payment, it would very likely increase the chance Brees would NOT finish his career in a Saints uniform. Ultimately this would alter the course of the Saints for the next four years.
So the question now becomes: Get rid of Smith and Vilma if they don't restructure?
Safety Roman Harper carries a hefty price tag at $7.1 million for 2013. The high profile veteran is likely on his way out the door without restructuring the Brees contract. It's either that or you say good-bye to Brees in 2 years when he's 36 and has a cap hit of 28.6 million in 2015.
The Saints pretty much have no choice but to absorb the 17.4 million price tag for Brees. It doesn't look like a restructure is likely.
What's the Saints best move at this point?
Don't even touch the Brees contract. I'm not the numbers guy that Mickey Loomis is, I'm not trained in that field, but I'm sure he'll find a way to make it work.
However, from this radio guys chair it doesn't look like the Saints can get relief from a reworked Brees deal.
I would like to again thank Brian Duvall (Saints Radio Statistician) for contributing to this report.