The numbers, quite frankly, are staggering.
Peyton Manning: five years, $90 million. Tom Brady: five years, $78.5 million. Michael Vick: six years, $100 million.
Next up is Drew Brees. The Saints' QB will need a new contract before the 2012 season -- his current six-year, $60 million deal expires after 2011. And while Brees always figured to get paid like a top-five NFL quarterback, Vick's deal may have just raised the asking price.
"I did see it," Brees said of Vick's deal. "It looks like a nice contract. Obviously I don't know any of the details other than the six years and $100 million."
Brees has missed just one game in five years as the Saints QB (Vick, for comparison's sake, missed four last season alone). His lowest completion percentage with New Orleans is 64.3, he's never thrown for less than 4,300 yards in a season and has topped 30 TD passes each of the past three seasons.
His numbers, for the most part, are right up there with Manning and Brady, in some cases surpassing them -- including interceptions, of which Brees threw 22 last season; Manning had 17, Brady a remarkable four.
There is little doubt that Brees is one of the four or five best QBs in the league, and he has to be considered ahead of Vick in that pecking order right now.
So instead of asking if Brees deserves to make as much as Vick, we probably should be asking instead: How could he possibly make less?
Like Manning in Indianapolis, Brady in New England and Larry Fitzgerald -- who just received an eight-year, $128.5 million contract -- in Arizona, Brees is more than just a special player. He's the face of his franchise. New Orleans was 3-13 the year before it acquired Brees in free agency.
The Saints went 10-6 and won the NFC South the next season. Three years later, they were Super Bowl champions. Along the way, he helped the New Orleans area heal after Hurricane Katrina and superseded Reggie Bush as the team's most popular player, achieving levels of on- and off-field popularity that someone like Eli Manning could only dream of in New York.
You hate to say that the Saints owe Brees anything after paying him $60 million, but ... well, the Saints owe Brees a contract in line with the most lucrative in the league.
In reality, Vick's deal is reportedly worth five years and $80 million once a clause kicks in that eliminates the final season if he plays a certain percentage of snaps. That works out to $16 million per season and $35.5 million of his contract is guaranteed.
Philadelphia certainly caught most people off guard with the amount of money it promised Vick. But the bigger risk in Vick's deal is the length of it. Vick is 31 years old, missed three-plus games last season with a rib injury he sustained scrambling, and his style of play puts him at risk to be further banged up in the future.
Brees is already 32 and will be 33 when his new contract starts. He's also coming off that career-high interceptions total in 2010. At the very least, New Orleans will weigh those factors -- and maybe even use them against Brees -- in negotiations. Quarterbacks have an expiration date. You don't want to be paying one $15 plus million a season once he crosses that mark.
Aside from the interceptions, though, Brees has shown no sign of slowing down. The Saints clearly plan to have him around for awhile, too -- the current backup to Brees, Chase Daniel, is a promising young player, but he was undrafted out of Missouri, cut by the Redskins and has thrown three career NFL passes.