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Sources: Drew Brees, Saints agree
By Chris Mortensen
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, according to league, players' union and team sources.
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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.
"I appreciate the diligence and steadfast efforts by both sides to get this deal done," Brees told ESPN's Ed Werder. "I love my organization, team and the city of New Orleans. Thank you especially to [owners] Gayle and Tom Benson for the opportunity. Now I need to go earn it."
Brees had until 4 p.m. ET Monday 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' 2012 salary of $40 million is fully guaranteed, breaking down as $37 million in bonus and $3 million in salary. The deal carries a $10.4 million cap hit.
"Congratulations are in order for our organization, our city, Drew and Brittany and certainly for Mickey Loomis and his staff for all of the hard work put in to make this possible," Benson said in a statement. "Now we must turn our focus to getting ready for the start of training camp and to keeping with our goal of being the first team in NFL history to host and play in a Super Bowl."
In 2013, the Saints will have a three-day window to release Brees 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 for an NFL player. Calvin Johnson's deal with the Lions, signed earlier this year, was initially reported to guarantee $60 million, but a closer look found it was fully guaranteed for $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 the Saints would want to have paid Brees $40 million for one year or $55 million for two years.
Brees Blows Away League
Drew Brees set the single-season passing record last season, and since joining the Saints has two of the four most prolific seasons in NFL history.
Most Pass Yards in Single Season
2011 Drew Brees 5,476
2011 Tom Brady 5,235
1984 Dan Marino 5,084
2008 Drew Brees 5,069
2011 Matthew Stafford 5,038
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. Peyton Manning's deal with Denver averages a little more than $19 million; Tom Brady's contract with New England pays him an average of $18 million per season.
Brees must still take a physical and sign the contract, which is considered a mere formality.
During the past six seasons, Brees has not only led the Saints to their only Super Bowl title, but has completed more passes (2,488) for more yards (28,394) and more touchdowns (201) than any other quarterback in the NFL. His 67.8 percent completion rate spanning the past six seasons also tops the league.
In 2011, Brees set NFL single-season records with 468 completions, 5,476 yards passing and a completion percentage of 71.2. His prolific passing numbers helped the Saints set a new NFL high for total offensive yards in a season with 7,474.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.