Brees: ‘American people need sports right now’

  • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
  • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

Drew Brees said Wednesday on “The Ellen Show” that he thinks “the American people need sports right now.” The New Orleans Saints quarterback is also eager to return to the field this fall so he can compete against new NFC South rival Tom Brady.

“Yeah, well, the division just got a little bit better, didn’t it?” Brees said with a laugh when asked about Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “And in addition to that, Teddy Bridgewater — who played so well for us with the Saints last year when I got hurt — he’s now the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. So our division has Teddy Bridgewater, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and myself with the Saints.

“It’s always been a very challenging division, and it just kicked up a notch.”

Brees and his wife, Brittany, discussed a variety of topics with host Ellen DeGeneres, including home-schooling their four children and their $5 million pledge to help Louisiana get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Brees said he hopes that sports can return and be part of the recovery process.

“That’s typically something that’s really brought us through a lot of tough situations throughout our country,” Brees said. “I think people have been able to lean on their local sports teams or national teams to just unite them and get their minds off the challenges of daily life or daily struggle.

“We don’t even have that right now, and I think that’s another reason why this is so tough. And obviously we hope that football can be back to normal — or this can be back to normal so that we can play real football.”

Brees talked about the possibility of playing games in empty stadiums, saying he had never thought about the idea of playing without fans before and that it would be “really weird.”

“From Texas high school football, through college in the Big Ten, to games now in the Superdome, you’re used to those loud, electric atmospheres,” Brees said. “And so I think it would be really weird. Maybe you just click in and you’re in the zone.

“But I tell you where the fans really help is whenever you get hit and knocked down and you’re wondering what happened, you just listen to the sound of the fans and they usually tell you whether the ball was complete or not. So that was one big benefit; obviously, we miss out on that. But it would be really weird. I hope we’re obviously beyond that, and we can get back to that level of normalcy.”

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Drew Brees donating $5 million to State of Louisiana

Drew Brees is giving back to the community in a big way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback announced Thursday, he and his family will donate $5 million to help deliver meals to needy people in Louisiana.

"Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020," Brees wrote. "The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together."

Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020. The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on

Louisiana has been among the most hard-hit by the novel coronavirus that continues to spread throughout the United States.

Saints coach Sean Payton was the first in the NFL community to announce he contracted the virus. The coach said Wednesday he has since been cleared.

Brees’ donation continues the growing trend of players and clubs alike making big donations to help those most devastated by local shutdowns due to the pandemic.

The Detroit Lions announced quarterback Matthew Stafford and his wife Kelly are launching programs on multiple levels this week to assist in dealing with changes in daily life and hardships brought on by the virus.

Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon and his girlfriend Treyleanna Robinson are partnering with Feeding Northeast Florida to greater Jacksonville respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported. The couple has pledged a donation that will provide over 10,000 meals to those affected by the ongoing crisis, Garafolo added.

Following the Denver Broncos’ $500,000 donation to the Colorado COVID-19 Relief Fund, they announced general manager John Elway is personally donating $50,000 to help support our community during this time of need.

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2020 NFL free agency's best contracts: Cousins extension smart


It’s hard to find bargains in free agency. Contracts completed at this time of year will usually cost a premium, but the deals below are worth it. These are some of best contracts from a team perspective signed over the last week.

NOTE: All contract figures are from Over The Cap or from numbers filed to the NFL Players Association and the NFL.

Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings: It was only a few years ago that folks were chortling over the Vikings’ decision to pay Cousins $30 million per year. By the time he gets to the end of the extension he agreed to as this year’s free agency period kicked off, the Vikings could be seen as forward-thinking. I like the new two-year, $66 million deal, which is set to go through the 2022 season, for a few reasons. It opens up $10 million in cap space while only adding one additional guaranteed year for Cousins. (The Vikings could get out of the contract after the 2021 season if they wanted.) It also prevents a scenario like the Redskins once faced with Cousins, who was constantly asked about his future with Washington over three consecutive contract years from 2015 to ’17, thanks to that team’s repeated use of the franchise tag. Minnesota decisively believes that Cousins is a franchise quarterback, so it’s better for the Vikings to make a move now rather than wind up paying much more later, like the Cowboys will with Dak Prescott, who had to be tagged this year after reaching the end of his rookie deal without an extension. By the time Cousins reaches the end of this deal, it won’t be a surprise if he’s outside the top 10 in quarterback salaries.

Javon Hargrave, defensive tackle, Philadelphia Eagles: While Eagles fans were honking that their team was "quiet" on the first day of free agency, general manager Howie Roseman and friends snuck in an impact move just before midnight. Hargrave moves across the state from Pittsburgh, fitting beautifully alongside Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Malik Jackson and Derek Barnett. The Eagles are excellent at building strength on strength, and Hargrave was one of the more underrated players available. Able to play in multiple fronts, Hargrave provides more pass-rush disruption than most true nose tackles. The contract — for $39 million over three years, with the first two guaranteed — is as close to a Day 1 bargain as you’ll find.

Chris Harris, cornerback, Bryan Bulaga, offensive tackle and Austin Ekeler, running back, Los Angeles Chargers: Is GM Tom Telesco going to fool us all into believing in a Chargers roster again? While quarterback remains a huge question, with no clear replacement for Philip Rivers on hand, the Chargers’ work in free agency has been outstanding.

Bulaga and Jack Conklin were probably the two best tackles on the market, and Bulaga signed for under $20 million guaranteed in the first two years of his contract. Harris is a better bet to make a big 2020 impact than some of the younger names in free agency, like James Bradberry and Trae Waynes, who received far more money than he did ($20 million over two years). Harris will fit extremely well alongside Casey Hayward, Desmond King and Derwin James in a spicy Chargers secondary. Perhaps the best deal the Chargers made came before free agency, when they brought back running Austin Ekeler, who was headed for restricted free agency, on what I expect will be one of those rare fully completed four-year contracts. Combine these moves with the trade for Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner, and it’s obvious that few teams upgraded their talent base more than the Chargers — and even fewer did it so economically. Now they just need to move up in the draft, select Tua Tagovailoa and open their new stadium with some sizzle.

Cory Littleton, linebacker, Las Vegas Raiders: Off-ball coverage linebackers are impossible to find, but for whatever reason, that scarcity hasn’t led to high prices for those players. Littleton and fellow free-agent linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski immediately upgrade the Raiders’ speed and smarts at a huge weak spot for the team. Getting Littleton at his prime for just under $12 million per year is a safe bet.

Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys still need more defensive linemen, but they have time to find them. In the meantime, signing McCoy is exactly the type of short-term move worth making. Over-30 veterans who can still provide quality snaps, if only for a year or two more, remain the most undervalued subset of players in free agency. McCoy, 32, may not be at his All-Pro best at this point, but he appears incapable of providing anything but 400-plus excellent pass-rush snaps. That’s worth more than the $6.4 million the Cowboys will pay McCoy this year.

Emmanuel Sanders, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints: GM Mickey Loomis always finds a way. This was supposed to be an offseason where the Saints had no money to spend, but Sanders is the type of addition who could put this team over the top. He gets open plenty but won’t complain as a role player behind Michael Thomas. With Drew Brees nearing the end and more of the Saints’ young stars approaching paydays, this is the type of low-cost deal ($16 million over two years) that will help enable Loomis to make more magic next offseason, too.

Philip Rivers, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts: Life is short. The Colts couldn’t afford to spend another year in purgatory, and Rivers’ one-year, $25 million contract is a low-cost ticket to either football heaven or hell — there’s no in-between with Rivers. The Colts had more cap space than they needed the last two years, and they didn’t commit any money beyond 2020. What’s the point of having "assets" if you don’t use them? That $25 million total doesn’t look like much when Teddy Bridgewater is making nearly that much per year with Carolina and Ryan Tannehill is making almost $5 million more per year in Tennessee.

Kendall Fuller, cornerback, Washington Redskins: Fuller is a baller. He’s had some ups and lulls in his career, but he has a higher ceiling than most of the cornerbacks who made more money than him in free agent. He’s also a perfect fit in coach Ron Rivera’s system. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Fuller will get roughly $40 million over four years, a deal that has the potential to look like larceny in a few years.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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Source: Brees reaches 2-year deal with Saints

  • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
  • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees has agreed to a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints that is worth approximately $50 million, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

The $25 million per year is the same value as the previous deal he signed with the Saints in 2018. The deal is even more team-friendly than last time, considering the inflation of quarterback salaries since then.

The NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday. But as promised, he didn’t even test the open market heading into his 20th NFL season.

It’s unclear whether the deal includes voidable years tacked on beyond 2021 — but that is likely so that the Saints can spread out the salary-cap costs.

Brees, who turned 41 in January, made it clear that he would play only for the Saints after announcing last month that he was planning to come back and “make another run at it.”

Still, it was important for New Orleans to get the deal done with Brees before the start of the new league year on Wednesday to avoid being hit with the full $21.3 million salary-cap charge in “dead money” from his previous deal.

That’s crucial because the Saints entered this week with less than $10 million in cap space.

The Saints almost certainly can’t afford to bring back all three of their quarterbacks from last season, though, as backup Teddy Bridgewater is also an unrestricted free agent and backup Taysom Hill is a restricted free agent.

Bridgewater, 27, is likely to be the odd man out — especially if he earns an opportunity to start elsewhere after his impressive 5-0 stint in 2019 while Brees was sidelined by a thumb injury.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last week that the Saints plan to place a first-round tender on Hill with a qualifying offer of just under $5 million. That means the Saints could match any offer that Hill might sign with another team or receive a first-round draft pick from that team as compensation.

The Saints could also work out a long-term extension instead with the versatile 29-year-old Hill, whom they view as a possible successor to Brees whenever he does retire.

Brees has repeatedly said that he believes he could play at a high level through age 45 — but only if he wants to keep playing that long. He has been taking that decision “year by year” for the past several years now.

In the meantime, Brees has also agreed to be paid “year by year” with a series of contracts that guarantee him only one year of salary at a time. The last time he was a free agent in 2018, he also accepted slightly less than market value with a two-year, $50 million contract that included just $27 million guaranteed.

Since then, Brees has broken Peyton Manning’s NFL records for both career passing yards (77,416 and counting) and career passing TDs (547 and counting). And he has actually posted the two best passer ratings of his career (116.3 in 2019 and 115.7 in 2018).

Brees and the Saints had a disappointing finish last season with a wild-card playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings after a 13-3 regular season. Brees threw for just 208 yards with one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble in that game.

However, Brees was playing some of the best football of his career before that, despite the thumb injury. He was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for December, when he threw 15 touchdowns with zero turnovers and completed a NFL-record 29 of 30 passes in a Week 15 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Saints coach Sean Payton said in late January that it’s hard for him to see any drop-off in Brees’ performance.

“I’m watching this guy perform, and again his numbers this year exceeded last year’s. The job is for him to win, and he’s done that,” Payton said. “Look, is the ball going down the field the same way? Maybe it’s not. And yet his yards per completion and all those things have been real good.”

Brees said late last season that when you combine that efficiency with “all the experience and wisdom, I think that just allows you to maintain your prime for longer and longer.”

“I really do feel like I should be better every week and every year,” Brees said.

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