The Brees deal is finally done

Drew Brees will now be taking all of his baths in money. We’re not sure how sanitary that is, but it’s good for the pores.

Brees has mercifully finalized a contract with the Saints, allowing everyone to stop pretending that they legitimately believed his deal wouldn’t be completed before Monday’s deadline to sign franchised players, and that he would hold out during the regular season and destroy a franchise that’s already been reduced to a few leftover Mardi Gras beads in the French Quarter.

Brees will receive $100 million over five years, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. That includes $40 million guaranteed in the first year, and $60 million guaranteed over the first three years, making him the league’s highest paid player based on average annual salary, and giving him the most guaranteed money in NFL history. His cap hit for next year has now decreased drastically from what it would have been under the franchise tag, as he’ll account for $10.4 million of the Saints’ cap, instead of $16.37 million.

There’s also $22 million in potential bonus money over the final two years, giving more riches to a man who won’t have to drive a taxi ever again. Rounding out the monetary monstrosities is his $37 million signing bonus. That’s $37 million more than any signing bonus I’ve ever had.

We say this with nearly every major contract, but it’s especially important here. The overall number pops out, and while that’s important, it’s not nearly as important as the guaranteed money. The guaranteed cash here gives Brees, an elite quarterback who’s now under contract contract until he’s 38, an average of $20 million guaranteed annually over the first three years. And while that sounds gargantuan because, well, it is by the standards of mere mortals, consider the comparison to Peyton Manning’s contract in Denver.

Manning is guaranteed $18 million over five years, with those guarantees then rising to $60 million if he’s able to pass a physical next March. Overall Manning’s contract will pay him an average of $19.2 million annually over five years, while Brees is getting $20 million. So in both the guarantees and overall money, the value of a quarterback who’s had four serious neck surgeries and hasn’t played a snap of competitive football in well over a year has been deemed to be nearly the same as his much healthier counterpart who broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record last year, threw 46 touchdowns passes, and connected on 71.2 percent of his pass attempts.

That math doesn’t add up, so this is a win for the Saints, albeit a minor one. The numbers in Brees’ contract are very close to the terms that have been widely reported for the past month, with the Saints’ management trying to stick firm at about $19 million yearly, and Brees seeking about $22 million. Brees held the leverage because of an arbitration ruling stating he would receive a massive raise under a third franchise tag next offseason, forcing the Saints into the only logical move they had. They made a compromise, and handed Brees an extra $1 million, the equivalent of several tuna sandwiches around NFL head offices.

One puzzling question remains: if the gap was that small it’s doubtful Brees truly had any intention of breaking out his hardball bat and sitting out for all of training camp. So why didn’t he initiate this minimal compromise much earlier? The answer is likely simple. The holdout threats were textbook posturing from Brees’ camp, and deadlines always drive negotiations. With Friday afternoon here and no change in sight over the weekend, the two sides saw little need prolong the pain.

Football fans in New Orleans are familiar with the feeling of searing pain, and adding more would have crossed over into waterboard torture. Now they have their quarterback and franchise leader on board for what will be a tumultuous season without Sean Payton, and with two interim head coaches instead.

Strap in, New Orleans. This is just the beginning.