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Monday, December 28, 2015

NFL team with $33 million in dead money thinks Hall of Fame QB's contract caused lack of talent

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2015 at 9:39 AM

Lord of the Sunday morning splash report Ian Rapoport kicked off the third day of Christmas with a gem about Drew Brees' contract. And to think just a few days ago in this space I wrote the Saints should resist the urge to go crazy over the coming off-season. Seems it's too late; the crazy is already there, running the team.

Brees' contract hasn't caused the Saints' depth issues, which are really general lack of talent issues (can't really debate about depth issues when you don't even have good starters, you know?). The incompetence of the people who are supposedly frustrated with Brees caused the Saints' roster issues.

The Saints have $33.5 million in dead money this year — that's over $33 million in salary cap resources they could have devoted to address Rapaport's "depth issues." That's almost a full quarter of the Saints' 2015 salary cap, tied up in players who are no longer Saints.

The Saints lack depth or talent because tight end Jimmy Graham is still costing them $9 million.

The Saints lack depth because guard Ben Grubbs is still costing them $6 million.

ibid, pass rusher Junior Galette.

Linebacker Curtis Lofton is costing them $5 million.

Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley is costing them almost $2 million.  

Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who would make at least honorable mention on a list of the dumbest draft picks in team history, is still costing the Saints three quarters of a million, for heaven's sake. Somehow, even Champ Bailey is still costing them a relatively negligible but still hilarious $250,000. 

Yesterday, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Drew Brees responded to the stupidity leaked from his front office to Rapaport in the same way he usually responds to people who are stupid: by incinerating a defense. Brees completed 25 passes, including myraid downfield passes and one rocket that threaded three defenders and made me gape in wonder, for 412 yards and three touchdowns.

Of course, the Saints still gave up 27 points, because even though Brees averaged a Hall of Fame-level 11.4 yards per pass attempt and produced an outstanding 135.4 passer rating, the Saints' defense allowed Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles to average 10.5 yards per attempt and to produce an almost-as-good passer rating of 124.5.

That latest entry into the Library of Congress that is the Saints' record of bad defensive performances under Sean Payton isn't a result of Drew Brees' contract. It's a result of continued incompetence in the Saints' front office.

Drew Brees' contract is worth a total of $100 million. The Saints gave cornerback Brandon Browner, safety Jairus Byrd, running back CJ Spiller, and the aforementioned Junior Galette contracts worth a combined total of $126 million. Galette is gone. Spiller was benched in favor of castoff Travaris Cadet, brought back to New Orleans just before the Jacksonville game kicked off. And on one play against the Jags, Brandon Browner was beaten for a long pass, Jairus Byrd missed a tackle on the receiver who beat Browner, and Browner caught up with the play only to himself miss a tackle.

Browner made up for that by allowing a 90 yard touchdown pass.

$126 million in contracts given out to players who are either no longer on the team or who make fans wish every week they would no longer be on the team. And the Saints' lack of talent is Brees' fault?

Next year, the Saints already have $15 million in dead money, including another $12 million for Galette. If they move on from Browner, they will add $5 million more. If they move on from Spiller, they'll add another $4 million. 

Cutting or trading right tackle Zach Strief will result in over $3 million in dead money. Marques Colston? Another $3 million.  

In short, the Saints will quickly find themselves next season with as much as $30 million more in dead money. They'll easily have as much devoted to players no longer on the roster as they will have devoted to Brees even in the unlikely scenario that he plays out his contract as it currently exists. 

It's cowardly of the Saints' front office to use Brees' contract to redirect attention away from their own bad decisions. It's denial. And, with the obvious asterisk denoting my skepticism of Rapoport's accuracy, it's a sign that the Saints are headed back into the desolation whence they emerged in 2006. 

The Saints signed CJ Spiller to a $16 million contract before this season. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he sat on the bench while bargain bin backs Travaris Cadet and Tim Hightower helped Drew Brees win a football game. 

Tell me again who has the problem here.

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