March 14, 2006

QB Brees Arrives In New Orleans

After negotiating heavily with the Dolphins, Brees comes back to town for six year deal

QB Drew Brees has signed a six year contract with the Saints, a $60 million deal with a $10 million signing bonus. With starter Aaron Brooks on the way out - via trade to outright release - any day now, the Saints have added a young veteran in Drew Brees who iseems to be diametrically opposite of the Saints' starter of five seasons.

Brooks is tall and strong armed. Brees is put 6'0", and more accurate than powerful. Brooks struggled with consistency throughout his career. After turning on the light switch before the 2004 season, Brees has been steady, reliable and the steward of an offense powered by a dominant runningback.

Brees negotiated a deal that averaged $10 million over six years on Saturday with the Saints, but left town without signing contract. He flew to Miami, where he tried to talk Nick Saban and the Dolphins up to the Saints' price. On Tuesday, the Dolphins walked away from the table and traded for Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper.

Brees signed the Saints' offer shortly thereafter, marking the biggest free agent signing for the team since the Saints signed Jeff Blake to a four-year deal in February of 2000.

The contract includes a $8 million signing bonus and $2 million in base salary this season that is fully gauranteed this season. In 2007, Brees is set to earn a $3 million in base salary and a whopping $12 million roster bonus in 2007. Brees had reportedly been looking for $10 million per season and got it, but the massive roster bonus in 2007 dictates today that the contract will not stand in one calendar year. Even though the Saints are one of the more cap healthy teams in the league, a 2007 cap hit of at least $15 million is not something that will stand. The Saints are forcing themselves today to either cut Brees next February or renegotiate the deal to spread the cap hit out over the length of the contract.

Because of this, this $60 million deal may very well end up being a one year, $10 million deal, just under the new CBA franchise tag values for quarterbacks. Because of this, recent speculation that the Saints will trade out of the #2 overall pick in this April's NFL Draft - and not draft USC QB Matt Leinart - may be a "smoke screen" from the Saints front office. The Saints will likely entertain offers for the pick but Brees' contract seems intentionally built to be a short-term deal.

At Purdue, Brees was known as a gutsy, inspiring leader with a live, accurate arm and a knack for winning. He was 4th and 3rd in Heisman voting in his final two seasons, won the Maxwell Award for college player of the year, and was the 32nd overall pick by the San Diego Chargers in 2001. He saw little playing time as a rookie, appearing in only one game. For the next two seasons, Brees struggled with consistency.

The 8-8 Chargers of 2002 started 6-1 but floundered in the end as Brees went on a four game scoreless stretch and the defense crumbled. Brees finished with a 76.9 QB rating as the whole team struggled. The 2003 Chargers finished 4-12 after starting 0-5 under Brees, who finished with 11 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and was benched twice. Between he and Doug Flutie, the Chargers once again earned the top draft pick the next April, and Brees was an afterthought. The Chargers were hit by Eli Manning's refusal to play for them, drafted him anyway, then traded back to acquire North Carolina State QB Phillip Rivers to be the new face of the franchise.

But Brees was not ready to give up. Rivers held out, and Brees marshaled a suddenly potent offense fueled by LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. He finished with a ridiculous 27/7 touchdown-interception ratio, was sacked only 18 times and had a 104.8 quarterback passer rating, third in the NFL. Brees was 31/42 for 319 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the Chargers' last-second loss to the Jets in the playoffs, was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year and made the Pro Bowl, while Rivers sat on the bench.

Brees was the unquestioned starter in 2005 after the Chargers placed the franchise tag on him, and finished with an 89.2 quarterback rating, leading the #5 offense in the league to a 9-7 record. Brees went down in Week 17 under the weight of Denver DT Gerard Warren with a shoulder injury and the Chargers lost to the Broncos to end the season on a 1-3 skid. Brees was named a Pro Bowl alternate.

In San Diego, Brees worked with new Saints QB coach Pete Carmichael, Jr., who was an offensive assistant at the time.

Brees has spent this offseason recovering from a torn labrum and damaged the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. He had surgery shortly after the new year in Birmingham, AL by Dr James Andrews, widely regarded as the best orthopedic surgeon in the country. Andrews has given Brees' recovery his personal stamp of approval. While he expects a full recovery, Brees has said he may not be able to throw until August 06.

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