Saints revise Drew Brees’ contract, open up nearly $24 million in cap space

The New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees have agreed to a contract restructure, but it doesn’t mean what you think.

As soon as the New Orleans Saints‘ season ended, the focus shifted to the future of quarterback Drew Brees. All signs point to him retiring, with head coach Sean Payton suggesting an announcement could come as soon as next week.

No matter what Brees does, the Saints are in salary cap hell. They have a ton of work to do just to get in line with a lower cap in 2021. Brees had been lined to have a $36.15 million cap hit, which would still mean a lot of dead money if he retired.

According to multiple reports on Friday night, the Saints and Brees agreed to a contract restructure that will reduce his 2021 base salary and cap hit.

Brees has dropped his 2021 salary from $25 million to the league minimum $1.075 million. Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap outlined how Brees’ cap hit will drop to $12.23 million, saving the Saints close to $24 million.

Wait, so is Drew Brees retiring or not?

Typically, as will likely happen with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, reducing a huge cap hit comes with a contract extension to spread out the money. But there are no indications of that happening here with the Saints and Brees. He appears to be taking a pure pay cut, leaving money on the table and trying to help the team’s balance sheet. If (when) he retires, the Saints can spread the remaining cap hit ($22.65 million in dead money) over 2021 and 2022 by delaying it being official until after June 1.

So Brees is still going to retire, barring something unforeseen, it’s just a matter of when he makes it public. The Saints need to get creative to get right with the salary cap, and the Brees restructure is the big first step.