Let’s engage in a bit of a hypothetical game here, just because it will be fun and let’s face it, there’s not much else going on right now. We can either do that or break down who has been arrested for what during their vacation and that is usually quite boring (unless some lineman got caught fondling a goat in which case you know TSHQ will be all over that). So my hypothetical for this column involves Drew Brees and his ongoing contract dispute with the Saints and where he may go if the Saints decide he is too much trouble to stick with.
Right off the bat let’s be clear here and state that I am 99.9% certain that Brees will play this season in a Saints uniform (barring something strange like an arrest in the aforementioned category) and think that is the only sane option for both sides since that relationship has worked so well since Brees chose to go to New Orleans in the 2006 season. But, just for the sake of amusement let’s look at why the Saints could opt to go in another direction.
First of all there’s that pesky franchise tag situation which has been brewing all offseason. In a nutshell the Saints slapped their franchise tag on Brees at the start of the offseason since his original 6 year, $60m contract expired. It tied him down for 2012 at a cost of $16.371m but the general belief around the league was that it was only to prevent Brees hitting the open market while the two parties worked on a long term deal that would take care of Brees for the rest of his career. That idea has hit a snag as Brees spent most of the offseason arguing about a technicality in the CBA about the number of times he has been franchised (once by the Chargers and now by the Saints) and how much his tag would be worth if it was offered in 2013 as well. At $23.57m, or nearly 1/5 of the salary cap, that number is too high for any team to be paying a single player so if a deal cannot be finalised before the July 16 deadline the Saints would be looking at that outlay if they wanted to keep Brees off the market next season. Meaning he could ultimately leave for nothing.
So with the money proving to be a potential sticking point, another reason the Saints could decide to move Brees out of town is his value has never been higher. The last time he was on the open market was in 2006 when he was recovering from shoulder surgery after a gruesome injury in his last game as a Charger severely reducing his value. New Orleans could decide that they could move Brees on via trade and get something for the guy who they helped turn into one of the game’s elite players. Last season Brees was making headlines for smashing Dan Marino’s record of passing yards in a season so his value has not been higher (perhaps aside from winning Super Bowl 44) and any team in need of a quarterback would be crazy not to look at him if he was available.
So those are two big reasons why the Saints could decide to move Drew Brees absent a long term deal being reached. Next, let’s look at his potential value on the trade market using the recent trades involving quarterbacks this offseason. First of all the Redskins made a trade with the Rams for the second overall pick in the draft which was used on Robert Griffin III who the Redskins are hoping will turn into a top tier quarterback. To make the move the teams swapped first round picks this year (2nd and 6th overall) and the Redskins also gave up two first round picks in future seasons and a second rounder as well. The other big quarterback trade this offseason was when Tim Tebow was sent from Denver to the New York Jets in exchange for a fourth and sixth round pick. Odds are in a trade, Brees’ value will be closer to what RGIII cost than Tebow so using that as a guideline, teams will likely have to give up something in the area of at least one first rounder and a second rounder plus possibly a quarterback the Saints could get by with in 2012 if they decide their other roster options aren’t good enough. Of course in any trade it will most likely be subject to Brees agreeing to a new deal with whichever team decides he is worth the bounty of picks they will need to get Brees’ rights.
Finally, let’s look at some teams who could take on Drew Brees as their quarterback. To qualify for this spot the team needs to have something tangible to send to the Saints and a desperate need at quarterback. A lot of the teams who could have been interested sorted out their needs at the position this offseason (see Browns, Dolphins and Redskins) but if someone of Brees’s stature was available, you can bet on there being some suitors. The first such team that could be interested may surprise you but they did go after Peyton Manning and have a murky situation at quarterback beyond this season. That team is the Houston Texans, a trade here (if it were to happen) would be especially intriguing for the Saints because it would send Brees out of the NFC and they would avoid him on their schedule for as long as possible, having faced Houston last year. Houston could send their own quarterback Matt Schaub (who has one year left on his own deal) their 2013 first round pick and a makeweight, mid/low round pick to the Saints in exchange for Brees and sign him to that megabucks deal that had originally been earmarked for Manning. In Houston Brees would have the luxury of throwing to Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels while being supported by Arian Foster, one of the league’s best running backs.
The other AFC team that could potentially be in the market is a team with a very unpopular (but very competent) quarterback in the Kansas City Chiefs. Just last week their current signal caller Matt Cassel was booed at a charity softball match and you would have to think that he would welcome a path out of town, especially if a move to the Bayou were on offer. The Chiefs have all of their draft picks for the next two seasons in the bank so a first, third and Cassel could be enough to pry Brees away (assuming the Saints are looking). In Kansas City Brees would have plenty of talent around him with Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles being the highlights of his supporting cast.
In the NFC you would have to rule out all NFC South teams because they are set at QB and there is no way Brees would go to a division rival. Ideally the Saints would like to avoid playing him this year as well and frankly, there aren’t that many spots that you can see Brees going. The only one that truly stands out is the Minnesota Vikings as they have Christian Ponder who is a major work in progress but as he is their best option at quarterback, the Vikings would need to give up an RGIII bounty to get the Saints interested.
All in all Brees still remains the king of New Orleans for his work helping the city recover from Hurricane Katrina and it is highly unlikely he will be traded but let’s face it the NFL is a business and sometimes a team will need to make a tough decision to move on from their star player if it turns out he is going to be on the move eventually. It’s always better to get rid of someone a year too early than a year too late.