Drew Brees reworks his contract. Here’s what it likely means for his future with the Saints

Drew Brees’ contract restructure appears to be pointing toward one thing.

While it doesn’t guarantee or lock anything in, it sure seems like Brees might have just filed the paperwork that foreshadows his retirement.

This contract restructure lowers Brees’ cap hit by $24 million by dropping his base salary from $25 million down to about $1 million.

This means one of two things.

The first would be that Brees agreed to a $24 million pay cut and plans on playing next season at the league minimum.

The other option is that Brees agreed to lower his base salary because he plans to retire. In other words, he isn’t really giving anything up because he was never going to get paid that money.

But here’s why doing that matters: If Brees retires before June 1, the Saints could have a $22 million dead-money charge on their salary cap from the proration of Brees’ signing bonus. When a player signs a contract with a signing bonus, the team gets to spread the charges out in even amounts over the number of years on the contract (up to five).

If Brees retires after June 1, New Orleans can split that $22 million and take half of the hit in 2021 and the other half in 2022. Given those numbers, it seems likely the retirement won’t become official until after this date. If that is the move and Brees hadn’t cut his salary down, the $24 million he just gave back to the Saints would have stayed on the books until his retirement becomes official after June 1. So, New Orleans would have had to cut other players to free up space for a player that will eventually leave the roster.

If having to pick one of the two above scenarios, it sure seems more likely that the quarterback is getting ready to leave the roster.

As for the cap, this is a big help for New Orleans. The NFL Network recently reported that the cap for next season is expected to be around $185 million. The Brees move puts the team about $72 million over the salary cap, which is still a significant number to clear, but manageable without cutting too much talent.

It will still likely be hard to retain players like Nick Easton, Malcom Brown and Kwon Alexander, at least at his full salary. But I recently created $20 million in cap space while running a simulation without having to shed too much talent – and that was using a $180 million cap.

Even if much of the core can stick together, it is starting to look like the Saints might look much different next season.

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