What a new Collective Bargaining Agreement means for Saints salary cap, Drew Brees contract

The NFL could be closing in on reaching a new collective bargaining agreement with the players that would lock in labor peace for the next decade.

More games, expanded playoffs, more practice restrictions. There is a lot on the table that could change the way the league looks and operates over the next decade. But locally, a new CBA could have significant ramifications on how New Orleans’ approaches Drew Brees’ next contract and how much of the salary it has to carry on the 2020 cap.

Without a new CBA in place, one of the tools the Saints often use to manipulate the cap – voidable years – would be stripped from their arsenal. Given some of the situations New Orleans needs to manage, this would be a significant handicap.

For those needing a refresher, this is how the team uses voidable years as a means to managing the cap: The Saints sign a player to a one-year deal with two years that automatically void on the first day of the next league year. The reason for doing this is that signing bonuses prorate over the life of the contract (up to five years). So, using this contract as an example, a $9 million signing bonus would initially count as a $3 million cap hit in each of the three years instead of carrying the whole total all at once.

Once the contract voids, the final two years would accelerate onto that year’s cap, counting as a $6 million hit. This remaining total is what is known as dead money. This formula is why the Saints are currently staring down a dead-money hit of $21.3 million with Brees.

If a new CBA isn’t in place before Brees has to sign, his new contract would start with a cap hit of $21.3 million (you can’t set years to void in future years since those future years do not yet exist on the NFL’s calendar). This could make signing him to a one-year deal prohibitive.

The team could work around it, signing Brees to a longer deal with big, hollow numbers that do not carry guaranteed money. This would then force the team to either pay Brees a huge salary or cut him and sign him to a new deal if they want to stay together in 2021. Or, of course, they could agree to a longer deal with no guarantees in the future years and continue to take this year-by-year without the drama of renegotiating every offseason.

Being able to keep Brees on a one-year deal and pushing that money back out could be the best move. This would allow New Orleans to keep the cap hit low and maintain whatever flexibility it hopes to achieve on this deal. If it really views Taysom Hill as the future, being tied to Brees for one year might not be the most attractive option from a roster-building standpoint. The other point to consider here is that, without a new CBA, this could impact how the team goes about managing someone like Janoris Jenkins’ cap hit.

Having dead money is never ideal, but the bill will be more affordable in the future when looking at it in terms of percentage of the cap. Once the CBA is approved, new TV deals can be reached and the salary cap will go up, probably significantly. The $21.3 million owed to Brees will be a smaller piece of the pie when that bill becomes due.

As for Brees’ next deal, he made $25 million per year on the contract he signed in 2018, which accounted for 14 percent of the cap. If he again follows this formula, he might be looking for something around $28 million this time.

The benefits of pushing some of that down the line are apparent.

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