Drew Brees will retire a Saint if both sides compromise

Now that Rex had his day in the sun, it’s time to get down to business with the real king of New Orleans: Drew Brees.

NFL free agency begins a month from today.

New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and Brees’ agent, Tom Condon, have 28 days to consummate a deal for the star quarterback.

If Brees steps a foot into free agency then both sides have failed. It’s the Saints’ top offseason priority. A deal should be and needs to be in place before free agency so the Saints can focus on other personnel needs. 

The past month has done nothing but help Brees’ bargaining position. Monster deals for Alex Smith (four years, $94 million) and Jimmy Garoppolo (five years, $137.5 million) have set the market and raised the bar for elite quarterbacks.

Garoppolo’s unprecedented $27.5 million annual average is now the standard every quarterback and his agent will work from and toward during negotiations.

Who knows, Kirk Cousins might raise the bar to $30 million a year when he enters the open market next month.

But everyone expects Brees to sign before free agency begins on March 14, when Cousins is expected to realize his financial windfall.

If Brees elects to play hardball, he certainly could dictate the terms of this negotiation. Some QB-needy team would surely offer him a $30 million-a-year deal in the open market and Brees could force the Saints’ hand. But admirably and unconventionally, he has laid his cards on the table. He has said repeatedly he wants to finish his career in New Orleans and doesn’t even plan to test the free agent market.

So we know both sides are motivated to make a deal. But reaching one is more complicated than that.

This is a tricky negotiation for the Saints. On one hand, they have Brees over a barrel. He’s 39, has played in New Orleans for 12 years and has publicly stated his desire to finish his career here. He’s mastered Sean Payton’s high-powered offense.

They know he knows his best chance to win another Super Bowl is in New Orleans.

On the other, the Saints can’t afford to low-ball Brees and risk alienating their franchise player. He deserves a fair-market deal, regardless of age or negotiating conditions.

Despite his age, the just-turned-39-year-old Brees’ play has not declined. One of my favorite statistical measurements for NFL players is Pro Football Reference’s approximate value rating. Created by PFR founder Doug Drinen, the AV calculates production and playing time to create a seasonal value for every player at every position from any year (since 1950). The higher the number, the better the season.

Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram owned the highest approximate value ranking in the 2017 NFL season at 21. Cam Jordan tied for fourth at 17. Brees tied with Calais Campbell, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson for sixth at 16.

During his 12-year tenure in New Orleans, Brees has been a hallmark of stability and consistency. He has missed only one start because of injury and his…

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