The NFL wasn’t always a breeze for Drew Brees.
Long before the days of Twitter hyper-analyzing sports, sharing gifs and arguing about Taysom Hill, the Chargers spent time in San Diego, where they had Brees as quarterback.
While Brees showed plenty of talent and promise as a franchise passer with the Chargers, San Diego wasn’t sold, eventually drafting Eli Manning with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. (See? This is all very weird.) Manning would subsequently be traded to the Giants for quarterback Philip Rivers, loading up the quarterback room for the Chargers.
Playing under the franchise tag for the Chargers in 2005 showed the writing on the wall for Brees in a Chargers uniform. Here’s why they let him walk:
Why did the Chargers let Drew Brees leave in free agency?
A Purdue football product, the Chargers selected Brees with the first pick in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, the second QB drafted (behind Michael Vick, who went No. 1 overall). While Brees wasn’t of the typical height or build coming out of college, he garnered some first-round interest, but eventually fell to the second to the Chargers.
Brees’ first five years in the NFL weren’t anything Brees-like just yet: In 59 games, he threw for 12,348 yards, 80 touchdowns to 53 interceptions and averaged just over 200 yards per game. Slightly different era, sure, but the talent was apparent. Still, the Chargers were seemingly ready to move on.
In the Chargers’ last game of the 2005 season, Brees’ future was irrevocably changed when the fifth-year QB was injured trying to recover a fumble. Broncos defensive lineman Gerard Warren landed on Brees, causing him to tear his labrum, which he needed surgery for the following offseason. In addition to the labrum tear, Brees had damage to his rotator cuff and dislocated his shoulder, as well. The recovery period was longer than the Chargers had anticipated.
While the Chargers offered Brees a five-year deal to stay, the combination of having drafted Rivers the prior season, uncertainty about Brees’ health and Brees’ contract requests, both sides split following the 2005 season.
Why didn’t the Dolphins sign Drew Brees?
The Dolphins had two shots at Brees: in the 2001 NFL Draft, when he was on the board for the Dolphins No. 26 selection, and in free agency following Brees’ decision to move on from the Chargers.
Draft misses are common, but this one hurts:
The Dolphins had another opportunity following Brees’ departure from the Chargers, but team doctors advised against signing Brees because of his injured shoulder. The Dolphins would trade for Vikings starter Daunte Culpepper instead, leaving Brees with two options: re-sign with the Chargers or continue talking with the Saints.
How the Saints signed Drew Brees
While the Chargers offered an incentive-laden deal to keep Brees on the West Coast, the Boilermaker was drawn to the Bayou with a little bit more money.
Brees, securing $10 million guaranteed his first season with a $12 million option for the second year, signed a six-year, $60 million deal, starting the Brees-Sean Payton duo in New Orleans, which would win the Super Bowl in 2010. The Chargers wouldn’t come off or improve their incentive-based deal, effectively taking them out of the running for the quarterback. The team reportedly offered five years and $50 million, but with only a $2 million base salary.
The rest, as they say, is history.
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