Drew Brees doesn't need to take pay cut to help Saints' salary cap

Drew Brees is enering the final year of his contract; expect the Saints to work on a multi-year extension this offseason. Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

Thanks for submitting your New Orleans Saints questions to me on Twitter. Send ‘em anytime @MikeTriplett. Here’s this week’s Question of the Week:

@MikeTriplett: Drew Brees doesn’t actually need to take a pay cut to help the Saints’ salary cap for 2016. In fact, they could give him a raise and still save millions against their cap – as long as it comes as part of a multi-year extension.

Brees is due to make $20 million in salary and bonuses this year, which is the final year of his contract. But his salary-cap cost will be $30 million because of all the pro-rated bonus money the Saints have pushed back from previous years.

So let’s say the Saints and Brees agree to three more years at $20 million per year. That would make a total of $90 million that they need to count against the salary cap over the next four years (the current $30 million plus $60 million in new money).

The Saints could structure it so Brees counts an even $22.5 million against the cap each year. Or they could drop it as low as $16 million in 2016, then have it count closer to $25 million over the next three years. Or something in between. Meanwhile, Brees could get a signing bonus up front worth $20 million or more, making everyone happy.

The tougher part is going to be deciding the total value of Brees’ new deal.

I think the perfect compromise would be for Brees to just continue making $20 million per year (not exactly taking a pay cut, but still being generous to the Saints by not maximizing his value). If Brees were an unrestricted free agent, he would make well over $20 million per year on the open market, even at age 37.

Believe it or not, Brees now ranks ninth among NFL quarterbacks in average salary (behind Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco).

It will be fascinating to see how things play out, since New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently set a precedent for accepting way less than market value.

Brady signed a contract extension in 2013 – tacking on three years to the end of his deal that wound up being worth only $10 million per year. But that’s not the norm, and it should not be demanded of Brees.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Brees accept less than maximum value in a new contract. He wants another chance to win a Super Bowl at this stage of his career, he already has a lot of money in the bank, and a selfless act could even shrewdly increase his marketing appeal.

But then again, Brees is also represented by one of the NFL’s top power agents in Tom Condon, and Brees has been heavily involved in the NFL Players Association throughout his career. Both are reasons why he might not be inclined to help set a precedent that puts pressure on other quarterbacks to take less money in the future.

No matter how it plays out, I expect a contract extension to get done at some point this offseason, and I expect the Saints to be in better salary-cap shape afterward.