The argument that a rich person should sacrifice funds simply because they’re already rich is just something non-rich people say. But I’m not rich, so I’m going to say it.
By putting up a Balboa-style fight over the specific value of what will inevitably be an enormous contract that should secure and comfort his family for multiple generations to come, Drew Brees has very little to gain and a lot to lose.
The latest report out of the Bayou is that Brees turned down a contract that would have made him the highest-paid player in NFL history. And while there are several different ways to measure a contract’s overall worth and this is probably a sample of propaganda from the team’s camp, it doesn’t bode well for the image Brees has created for himself.
He is Mr. New Orleans. He helped save the city from post-Katrina turmoil. He’s always been about more than the game, more than the money. At least that’s the way he’s been pitched to us by national magazine cover stories and NFL Cares promos.
The Saints and Brees are reportedly $5 million apart. That’s a lot of money. But when you put it into context, is it worth the reputation damage? That same reputation that might very well make him that much money and more in retirement? Brees is the face of that city. Between the NFL, speaking engagements and endorsements, he already makes north of $30 million per year.
But it’s completely possible that this episode could ultimately cost him more than it makes him. He has leverage, of course. He can strong-arm the team into paying him $16 million guaranteed for one season under the franchise tag or caving to his demands by paying him $20-plus million a year but having the luxury to manipulate the annual numbers in order to free up money for the immediate future.
As ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas so eloquently put it yesterday, “the man who made the New Orleans Saints could end up breaking them.” The franchise tag or an out-of-this-world salary could force the team to let key free agents such as Carl Nicks and Marques Colston walk while handcuffing them on the open market.
I’m not saying Brees isn’t worth every penny he’s demanding. The guy set the single-season passing yards record while completing a ridiculous 71.2 percent of his passes. He’s still in his prime, and, at 33, he probably has a handful of elite years left in him. But if Brees already possesses every dollar he and his kids will ever need, and if winning another Super Bowl is his chief objective, and if he wants to maintain his pristine and highly marketable image, he’d be smart to suck it up and take the record-breaking deal that is reportedly on the table.