Here's the sneaky deadline the Saints have looming to lock down Drew Brees' contract

The prevailing logic when it comes to Drew Brees and the Saints working out a new deal is that something will just happen, because Brees wants to be with the Saints and the Saints want Brees to be there. There is some sense in that: Brees is 39, the Saints have a strong young core in place, nearly made a Super Bowl run in 2017 and could be right back in 2018. It is logical the two sides will be talking extension at the combine.

But friendly sandbox behavior flies in the face of how the Saints and Brees have done business in the past and is the polar opposite of how Tom Condon has handled things previously, both with Brees and with his other clients. Condon is a shrewd, money-making machine for his quarterback clients and he definitely understands the impending March 14 deadline that gives Brees a pile of leverage against his team. 

The deal Brees signed with the Saints back in 2016 was, in all practicality, an extension that created what was technically a five-year contract with several key components:

  • No trade clause 
  • No franchise-tag clause 
  • Two voidable years
  • $18M dead money on void date

That last one is really, really important, because it puts a not-quite-hard-but-pretty-darn firm deadline on the Saints in terms of negotiating a new deal with Brees. 

He is going to be a free agent when the new league year begins on March 14, because that is the date when the final two years of his contract void. Essentially Brees signed a one-year extension when he and the Saints inked the deal. 

Also on that date: the Saints get hit with $18 million in dead cap space, regardless of whether or not Brees is on the roster. Yes, if Brees were to retire or get mad at the Saints for lowballing him and go elsewhere or get some kind of absurd offer from the Cardinals, Vikings or Jaguars and decide to leave for a different team and more money, the Saints would still carry an $18 million cap charge for Brees in 2018. That would be brutal for their ability to construct a competitive roster; we're talking 10 percent of a cap hit for a quarterback not on the roster. 

They can't rework that number if they re-sign Brees after March 14. They would just tack on whatever new deal they got for Brees along with the $18 million. You know those commercials where the guy laments paying an extra $1,500 for his new laptop because of credit card interest charges? This is the NFL cap version version of that. 

It's possible Brees could do the Saints a solid and take a lot less money than his market value would dictate, but he and Condon don't have a history of doing that. Ever. If Brees agreed to waive the void portion of his contract, he would be making "just" $22 million in base salary along with his $6 million signing bonus. That's a total of -- carry the one, math majors -- $28 million, which is less than what Jimmy Garoppolo will make from his roster bonus next year. It is definitely less than whatever Kirk Cousins will make in terms of 2018 salary. 

Plus, as Dan Graziano pointed out at ESPN, Condon has another client coming to the free-agent market soon: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan

Ryan is not going to take less than Brees because of his age (32), his production (he has more MVP awards than Brees!) and the general way the quarterback market works. No one thinks Garoppolo and Cousins are better than Aaron Rodgers, but they will, at least temporarily, make more money than Rodgers because of how the NFL economy works. Quarterback supply is low and demand is high and the salary cap keeps rising.

Over the next 20-some days leading up to the start of the new league year, one of a couple of things needs to happen: Brees will need to be dead set on staying with the Saints to the point that he takes whatever they give him, the Saints will be willing to give Brees whatever he wants to make sure he sticks around or a surprising compromise needs to emerge for the two parties. 

Bank on something occurring before the deadline, so the Saints can avoid the cap hit. But don't bank on it being quite as easy and friendly as the public comments from Brees and the Saints would lead you to believe.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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