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NFL AM: Drew Brees Inks Contract Extension With Saints

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The NFL season finally kicks off this evening, but before it could begin, a couple teams managed to sneak in contract extensions with important players.

The New Orleans Saints announced on Wednesday that they have signed quarterback Drew Brees to a contract extension that will pay him handsomely to remain their quarterback through at least the 2017 season. Brees’ previous contract was set to void after the 2016 season which would have made him an unrestricted free agent in March, and the Saints wanted to avoid that at all costs. So did Brees.

“I’m humbled and honored, and have been from the day that I first stepped foot in here as a New Orleans Saint. It’s been an incredible journey and I hope to continue that journey for quite a bit longer. Like I’ve always said, these contract situations are indeed just a part of the process. They all happen in due time, they all happen when they’re supposed to,” Brees told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday after the extension was announced. “Both sides are very happy. Certainly, I’m very happy. I want to play my entire career here and I’m just taking it one step at a time, one year at a time, one opportunity at a time. But this allows me to be around here for a bit longer, and I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me.”

The cost to get there was a hefty one. The contract Brees signed is technically a five-year deal, though it is set to void automatically after just two seasons. Over those two seasons, 2016 and 2017, Brees is set to earn a whopping $44.25 million in guaranteed money. The deal also includes a no-trade clause and a no-franchise tag clause. The contract does, however, clear some salary cap space for the cap-strapped Saints.

From that perspective, it makes sense for both sides. It gives Brees a little more security as he enters his age 37 season, and it gives New Orleans some not insignificant breathing room under the cap for 2016.

The Saints haven’t been what they were during Brees’ true prime, when he led them to a championship in Super Bowl XLIV and was named Super Bowl MVP. But the nine-time Pro Bowler hasn’t been the cause of New Orleans’ downfall. In fact, his numbers in recent years have been right on par with his peak. Last season, Brees lead the league in passing yards for the sixth time, completed better than 68 percent of his passes and threw for 32 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions, his fewest picks since 2009.

What’s been ailing the Saints is the supporting cast around Brees, but that appears to be improving, at least on offense, and there is some belief that New Orleans could again make a run at the NFC South division title this season.

“My goal, all along, has been to remain a New Orleans Saint,” Brees said. “That was the objective. This entire negotiation was (to) find something that was very fair for both sides, and try to put our team in the best positon to make a run at a championship, and sustain that for a long time. The cap situation, to me, was the most important element to this. Over the next few years, putting our team in the best position to be able to keep talent and acquire talent, and the right type of guys that fit what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

Even if they don’t make a playoff run, and 2016 is another long season by the bayou, this move was still a no-brainer for New Orleans. Brees is the face of the franchise and a pillar in the community, and has been since Hurricane Katrina because of his contributions to the city on and off the field. He’s also still one of the league’s Top 10 quarterbacks and trying to negotiate with him against the open market next offseason would’ve been a painful process. Furthermore,  the Saints have no succession plan in place at quarterback, particularly after they cut 2015 third round pick Garrett Grayson earlier this week.

For the foreseeable future, Drew Brees and the Saints need each other, and it’s good they got a deal done.

BRONCOS EXTEND EMMANUEL SANDERS

Their quarterback situation remains shaky, but on the eve of their opener the Denver Broncos made sure that whoever ends up under center for them this season and beyond will now have two top tier receiving options in tow.

On Wednesday, the Broncos signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a three-year contract extension that will keeping him in Denver through the 2019 season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the extension will pay Sanders $33 million over three years, with $27 million of that guaranteed. Broncos executive Vice President John Elway announced the news over Twitter late Wednesday afternoon.

Sanders was entering the final year of the three-year, $15 million contract he signed with the Broncos prior to the 2014 season. Sanders previously spent four years in Pittsburgh, where he was mostly third in line for opportunities. But upon his arrival in Denver, he quickly replaced Eric Decker as the team’s second option and has put up incredible numbers over the past two seasons.

Over those two years, Sanders has played in 35 of the 36 games the Broncos have, including the postseason. During that span, he’s hauled in exactly 200 passes, totaled 2,815 receiving yards and caught 15 touchdown passes. He was an essential part of Denver’s march to the Super Bowl last season with 16 catches for 230 yards over their three playoff victories.

The new deal is a significant bump in pay for the 29-year-old former third round pick. Once he finishes out his current deal, the average value on the extension years will at least briefly put him among the top 10 highest paid receivers in the league, at $11 million annually. It comes in at a tick more than Tavon Austin got annually on the new four-year deal he signed with the Rams this offseason and a little below what Keenan Allen and Doug Baldwin got annually in their four-year extensions back in June. However, the $27 million guaranteed is the real prize here for Sanders. Only three receivers in the league: Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Sanders’ teammate Demaryius Thomas, currently have more guaranteed money in their contracts, which are all for five years. That’s a big win for Sanders and his agent.

It’s a big win for the Broncos too though. Keeping Sanders through 2019, the same amount of time they have Thomas locked up through, ensures that whoever becomes the team’s quarterback going forward (likely Paxton Lynch if we’re being honest) will have two of the top receivers in the game to throw to.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys