Drew Brees is currently mulling retirement from the NFL, and if the New Orleans Saints truly don't know his decision just yet -- they aren't exactly acting like it. While head coach Sean Payton continues to toe the line regarding a looming announcement, while not tipping Brees' hand in one direction or the other, he's also begun talking up a possible continuation of the relationship with backup quarterback Jameis Winston and the Saints have now pulled a contract trigger on Brees that indirectly acts like a laser pointer aimed at the future Hall of Famer calling it a career.
The team has reportedly restructured Brees' contract just ahead of Super Bowl LV, per Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap, freeing up $24 million in cap space by reducing his salary to the veteran minimum in 2021. Overall, it reduces the cap hit of Brees from $36 million to only $12 million -- a massive first aid kit when factoring in just how cash-strapped the Saints are heading into free agency and beyond.
As it stands, before this move, the Saints are nearly $78 million over the cap.
The transaction protects the Saints regardless of Brees' coming decision, one that's roundly expected to be retirement, because even if he pulls an about-face and opts to stick around one more season, he'll be at the veteran minimum, salary-wise. Should he retire now, the Saints can carry him on the roster until June 1 and officially retire him on June 2, which would split his dead money over 2021 and 2022 at roughly $11 million per year as opposed to taking the full weight of the hit upfront. If the contract went unchanged and Brees chooses to hang up his cleats, the Saints would suffer a $22.65 million hit -- the sum of what would now be divided by two.
There's still a lot of work for the Saints to do to get under the cap and then create enough space to be viable in free agency, but Brees is happy to throw them a financial life raft with what might later be viewed as a very nice parting gift.