Free agency officially starts on Wednesday and a passel of passable quarterbacks will make more money than they deserve to make.

The only thing rivaling the absurd cost-benefit equation NFL teams engage in when paying "he might be good" quarterbacks? Higher education in America.

Drew Brees taking a hometown discount that will pay him $50 million over two seasons ($27 million guaranteed) to stay with the Saints brings into greater relief the obscene bargain Tom Brady has cut for the Patriots over the years.

Brees' deal won't even make him the NFL's highest-paid quarterback based on annual compensation.

That's Jimmy Garoppolo -- he of the seven career starts -- who signed a five-year, $137.5 million deal with the Niners with $41.7 million guaranteed. Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr will also outpace Brees. Andrew Luck is in a virtual dead-heat with Brees at $24.594 million.

Garoppolo, Stafford and Carr have never won a playoff game. Luck is 3-3 in playoff games but hasn't seen the postseason since 2014 and has played in 22 of the Colts last 48 games.

Brees, who's never been shy about taking what's coming to him, has at least produced. He's going to complete 70 percent of his passes, have about a 3-to-1 TD/INT ratio, be around 8 YPA and be a leader on field and off. The Saints have never been able to look at Brees and say, "He's why we didn't win the Super Bowl."


And yet, despite coming into the NFL a year after Brady, Brees will have made $209 million for playing football by the end of 2018 while Brady will be at $212 million career earnings.

For the hell of it, throw in Brady's 37 career playoff games compared to Brees' 13. A season-and-a-half of playoff football MORE than Brees has played. All for $3 million more. The Patriots probably made that back in parking during the playoffs.

Brady is currently in the final two years of the contract he renegotiated after the 2015 season. By the time the contract ends in 2019, he will have made $60 million for four seasons.

And now Kirk Cousins is signing a fully-guaranteed three-year, $84 million with the Vikings. That will ratchet up Cousins' five-year earnings stretching back to 2016 to $130.633 million. Because he was franchised the past two seasons, those will have been fully guaranteed.

Cousins has never won a playoff game. He's 24-23-1 as a starter. And he was the prize free-agent quarterback. He's now the highest-paid player in football at $28 million, beating out Garoppolo by a nose.

There are more WTF? agreements to come. Case Keenum, who played nobly for the Vikings before coming undone in the NFC Championship Game, is signing with Denver. He'll make $36 million over two years, just a snuggle below Brady's $20 million per season. At least it's half the length of the four-year, $72 million deal Brock Osweiler got in 2016, a deal that will be the gold standard for taking a flamethrower to American currency.

None of this is breaking news. Even though there were occasions when Brady was the highest-paid player in the league by average salary or guarantees, his pay has never been commensurate with what his value would be if he were on the open market.

And any moron with opposing thumbs and working eyesight can read myriad stories about how out of whack quarterback salaries are, have been and always will be. The greater point -- as free agency looms and Patriots left tackle Nate Solder is being courted by multiple teams -- is what the Patriots will do with the money Brady saves them this year?

With more than $20 million in cap room, no obvious successor to Solder in house, Rob Gronkowski mulling retirement and last year's most productive back -- Dion Lewis -- on the open market as well, where will the Patriots' priorities lie when it comes to spreading around the money Brady's helped save them over the years?

Meanwhile, for those who thought the Patriots should have just pulled the ripcord on Brady and kept Garoppolo, the Niners will take a $37 million cap hit for Garoppolo this year. Brady's is $22 million -- the highest it's ever been.

Brady's not just the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He's also been the NFL's greatest bargain.