Quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have reached an agreement on a five-year, $100 million contract that includes a first-year take in 2012 of $40 million, league, players union and the team sources told ESPN.
For all practical purposes, the guaranteed money is considered by all parties involved to be an NFL-record $60 million, though there are contractual, but unlikely, outs for the Saints before he would receive all of that sum.
The accord was struck Friday morning in the latest round of negotiations between Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and Brees’ agent, Tom Condon.
Brees had until Monday at 4 p.m. ET to reach a long-term contract with the Saints or his only option would have been to play in 2012 under the terms of his franchise tender of $16.371 million. But he had no plans to report to training camp without a long-term contract, sources said.
Brees’s 2012 salary of $40 million is fully guaranteed. In 2013, the Saints will have a three-day window to release him after the waiver period begins (five days after the Super Bowl); if not, Brees gets another $15 million of fully guaranteed earnings, bringing his two-year total to $55 million.
In 2014, the same three-day waiver scenario is in place before Brees is fully guaranteed another $5 million, with an additional $1 million in salary. Under the assumption Brees is the team’s quarterback for the next three years, he would make $61 million during that stretch, with $60 million fully guaranteed, the highest guaranteed total an NFL player has ever earned. Calvin Johnson’s deal with the Detroit Lions, signed earlier this year was initially reported to guarantee $60 million, but a closer look found it only fully guaranteed $48.75 million.
While the waiver window gives the Saints an out, both the league and union view the $60 million as “guaranteed” because of the extreme unlikelihood that the Saints would want to have paid Brees $40 million for one year or $55 million for two years.
The remaining $39 million to be earned in 2015 and 2016 is subject to the same waiver formula, bringing the potential grand total to $100 million over five years. No player in NFL history has averaged $20 million per year.