I always felt the words “hometown discount’’ were foreign to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. And I have said as much over the years.
But after his latest negotiations and subsequent signing of a two-year, $50 million contract, ol’ No. 9 very much cut his hometown team slack and left potential millions on the table with the sole purpose of providing cap room for GM Mickey Loomis to upgrade a roster and contend for a second Lombardi Trophy.
Brees counts $24 million against the salary cap this season — $13.8 million in signing and roster bonuses and $10.2 million in base salary — accounting for 13.07 percent of the team’s $177.2 million roster allowance.
It is cap friendly in every sense of the phrase, suggesting his wishes were heeded by super agent, Tom Condon, who generally swings for the fences when it comes to getting mega-contracts for his stable of quarterback clients.
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Brees’ signing came March 13, two days before the passing of Saints owner Tom Benson, who died at the age of 90 after a month-long bout with influenza. Benson’s funeral Mass was held Friday at St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.
I’m hoping Benson passed knowing that Brees was back in the fold.
We know this: Benson indeed felt good about the direction in which his team is headed, expressing that opinion to coach Sean Payton moments after the Saints’ mind-blowing walk-off loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
Payton said as much in a column he penned for Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB. Payton wrote: “He says, ‘Hey coach, I like this group. Tough loss. But I like this group. We’re going in the right direction. We’ll be OK.’
“You know how great that is for a coach to hear?’’
The Saints appear to be building on the momentum created by a NFC South championship and subsequent strong playoff push. In addition to re-signing Brees, they are making responsible additions and subtractions to their roster this offseason.
Most, notably, they have signed five veteran free agents, inside linebacker Demario Davis, safety Kurt Coleman, cornerback Patrick Robinson, tackle/guard Jermon Bushrod and quarterback Tom Savage, and re-signed defensive ends Alex Okafor and George Johnson and restructured the contract of punter Thomas Morstead.
Savage replaces backup QB Chase Daniel who signed with Chicago. Bushrod replaces O-line swingman Senio Kelemete who signed with Houston, and Coleman replaces safety Kenny Vaccaro who will not be re-signed.
Still on the radar is free agent defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh who reportedly has whittled his potential landing spots to New Orleans, Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans. Of the three teams, the Saints have the least money to offer Suh unless Loomis discovers extra cap room with creative accounting.
Overall, Thomas Milton Benson must be smiling somewhere in the great beyond.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at email@example.com.