While it’s expected that 41-year old starting QB, soon-to-be 20th year veteran, and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees will return to play for the New Orleans Saints during the 2020 NFL Season later this year; the team’s #1 star and living legend is said to be seriously pondering his future options as his previous contract with the franchise has now expired — including the possibility (very unlikely but not impossible) of retirement.
For Saints team management namely General Manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton however, the possibility that Brees could actually choose to retire no matter how much of a “long shot” it may seem; presents them with an interesting decision to think about; as well as what could be an option and eventual solution: by making a commitment to current unrestricted free agent and #2 back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater.
New Orleans does have the option to offer Bridgewater enough money to convince him to remain with the Black and Gold either by signing him to a short-term contract to remain as Brees’ back-up for at least next season. Last season, the team convinced Bridgewater to stay in NOLA as an unrestricted free agent as well, but that contract was only on a 1-year deal at $7.25 million with incentives.
And even though it would be expensive given their current salary cap status and would require them to find the money to pull it off somehow (but yet they still have managed to do in previous situations with other players), New Orleans could even decide to sign the 27-year old Bridgewater to a long-term deal that would obviously be a commitment to make him the new starting QB after Brees is gone.
Also as an absolute last resort: the Saints could even choose to put the “franchise tag” on Bridgewater, which essentially would force the former University of Louisville star to remain for at least another year in NOLA. But it would guarantee that Bridgewater (who led the Saints to an undefeated 5-0 record while Brees was out for 5 games with a thumb injury to his throwing hand) would receive approximately $24 million a year — which VERY LIKELY would be as much (if not more) money than they plan to pay Brees if he decides to return for a 20th NFL season (and perhaps longer) .
However, the biggest dilemma facing Loomis and Payton under that scenario would be that it really wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to pay that sizable amount of money to Bridgewater under the franchise tag; especially if you only plan on keeping him as the back-up #2 QB once again and end up starting the player instead (Brees) who is 14 years older (but arguably still much better skills-wise) than Teddy B. is.
Whether or not Saints front office brass TRULY believes that they can win with Bridgewater as the eventual successor to Brees after he retires, would really be the biggest question.
In Mobile, Alabama yesterday morning prior to the series of work-outs and practices for the wide variety of college all-stars that will be participating at this coming Saturday’s annual Senior Bowl game; Loomis told a gathered throng of both local and nationally-known NFL reporters that the Saints would be very happy with the 41-year old Brees back as the starter, if he wants to come back.
“We’d love to have Drew back, and if he wants to be back then we’ll go from there. I’m assuming that he does,” Loomis said. “I don’t think it’s any different than it’s been the last few years.
“It’s easy to take him for granted, yet I don’t take him for granted. I don’t view it any different than I did a year ago, or a year before that, or a year before that — regardless of whether he has a contract or not. Yeah, he’s a great player, he’s been a great player, he continues to be a great player.”
New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis talked to the Media between practices @seniorbowl Today! Listen to What He had to Say on Thursday Edition Sports Roundtable Show 11AM @WPNNTalk790 103.7FM! pic.twitter.com/2shZxnirhG
— Paul Chestnutt (@PaulChestnutt) January 22, 2020
Then Loomis quickly added: “Look, if any of us are surprised at what he does, then we’re just not very smart.”
Interestingly enough (and notably in the eyes of some) however, Loomis DID NOT dismiss the possibility (no matter how remote it might seem at the moment) that Bridgewater could be back for the 2020 Season.
When asked specifically by ESPN beat writer Mike Triplett if it would be a viable option to pay both Brees and Bridgewater, Loomis said in response: “We’ll see.”
“Obviously we’d like to have our whole team back,” Loomis explained further. “We just came off a 13-3 season. We’ve got a great locker room, great bunch of guys, and so in a perfect world, we’d have everybody back. But there’s free agency and a lot of things are going to happen between now and then.”
One thing that could also happen (and is probably more likely than anything else as of right now) is that the team could opt to re-sign jack-of-all-trades, special teams stand-out and 3rd string QB Taysom Hill; who is a restricted free agent but is expected to return for another season at least, assuming of course that the team tenders him a qualifying 1-year offer under the guidelines of restricted free agency as expected.
The one drawback to that likelihood unfortunately is that Hill, who will turn age 30 in August; has mostly made his mark as a superior athlete with incredible physical skills which have allowed him to have a huge impact as a runner and receiver.
But there remains some much lingering doubts among many well-known observers and analysts about Taysom’s capability to effectively guide the offense purely as a passer and starting NFL quaterback.
Presumably Loomis and Payton are well aware that Bridgewater — who at age 27 is now in just entering into his “prime” — proved his worth as a legitimate starting NFL QB (the knock on him prior to that was that he wasn’t capable of playing at that level); and after Brees was hurt, stepped up “big time” to lead the franchise to impressive wins during the early to middle part of the season over fellow NFC Playoff contenders Seattle, Dallas, and Chicago.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming amount of reverence and respect that the entire Saints organization has for Brees is both plentiful and immense; and it goes without saying that both Loomis and Payton will very likely lean heavily towards the idea of welcoming the NFL’s all-time passing yards and touchdown leader, back with “open arms”.
And Brees for his part, is clearly leaning that way himself.
“I wanted to give it at least a few weeks, months, postseason, just to take a deep breath and decompress a little bit and get some time with the family and then just reassess,” Brees told ESPN’s NFL Live yesterday while he was practicing for the annual Pro Bowl game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida this coming Sunday Night.
Where that will leave Bridgewater when all is said and done, will be eventually determined in the upcoming months and weeks ahead that are still yet to come.
But this much is certain: one of them (Brees, Bridgewater, or Taysom) will be under center for the Black and Gold as the starting QB in the first regular season game of 2020, during the 2nd weekend of September.
Whether or the Saints would be considered wise to make that sort of commitment particularly with Teddy B. however, is the burning-hot question that will still remain going forward….
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius