In March of 2019, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints restructured his contract to a drop his salary from just over $33 million to roughly $25 million for the next two years, but they also added $21.3 million in dead money due to Drew Brees.
According to the NFL term dictionary, dead money “Refers to salary a team has already paid or has committed to paying (i.e., a signing bonus, fully guaranteed base salaries, earned bonuses, etc.) but has not been charged against the salary cap.
In business terms, it is essentially a ‘sunk cost.’
Any money a team pays a player must be accounted for against the salary cap. If there is dead money in a player’s contract and he is released or retires, that charge will accelerate onto the team’s salary cap for the current year.”
Therefore, the $21.3 million is already Drew Brees’ money whether he decides to come back or not.
The reason the New Orleans Saints did that is to save enough cap space to entice current tight end Jared Cook and current backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to sign with the Saints last offseason, but it put more dead money away for Drew Brees in the future.