Will this be the year Saints draft Drew Brees' successor?

The New Orleans Saints don't have to force it yet.

Eventually they will have to replace quarterback Drew Brees, who turned 38 in January. But he isn't really acting his age yet. Brees played his best football in five years last season, once again leading the NFL with 5,208 passing yards. And he has talked many times about his determination to keep thriving into his 40s.

However, Brees has only one year remaining on his contract -- which is how the Saints wanted it. Brees wanted a long-term extension last year, but the Saints preferred to evaluate the position year-by-year.

In other words, if the Saints fall head over heels for a QB in Round 1 of this year's draft -- such as Clemson's Deshaun Watson, North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky or Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer -- the transition could come sooner than expected.

If not, the position is still in awfully good hands for the time being.

That's why I have QB ranked ninth in my position-by-position breakdown of the Saints' offseason needs. But it might be No. 1 when it comes to intrigue.

Current depth chart:

Drew Brees: Age 38, signed through 2017. 2017 salary and bonuses: $13 million. 2017 salary-cap number: $19 million (Note: Brees' contract also includes an $18 million salary-cap hit in 2018, even though his contract will void after this season).

Luke McCown: Age 35, signed through 2017. 2017 salary and bonuses: $1.5 million. 2017 salary-cap number: $1.75 million.

Garrett Grayson: Age 25, scheduled to be exclusive rights free agent in 2019. 2017 salary and bonuses: $540,000. 2017 salary-cap number: $540,000.


For the third year in a row, the Saints will take a long, hard look at all of the top QB prospects in this year's draft -- as they should.

As I said, they don't have to force it. And I'm in the camp that believes Brees can still be a top-10 NFL quarterback for at least three more seasons if healthy, so the Saints shouldn't rush to shove him out the door -- especially if they can use valuable assets like a first-round draft pick on someone who can help them make a playoff push while Brees is still thriving.

In fact, I would be comfortable signing Brees to another two-year extension through 2020 at his current rate of $24.25 million per year.

However, I also realize that the perfect QB might only come around once a decade, if that. So New Orleans has definitely reached the window in Brees' career where it should be on the lookout.

Ideally, the Saints would find their version of Dak Prescott in Round 4. But that's like saying they should just go out and buy the winning Powerball ticket. The Saints took a shot when they drafted Grayson in Round 3 in 2015, but he hasn't panned out yet -- though he is determined to try to salvage his career this offseason.

I don't know if Watson, Trubisky or Kizer will be enough to sway the Saints into using the No. 11 pick on a QB. All of them seem to come with disclaimers, and none is universally rated as a surefire top-10 pick among draft analysts. But quarterbacks always seem to scream up the charts and wind up going higher than initially projected by the time the draft rolls around. So the Saints might not even have a shot at Watson or Trubisky unless they trade up.

They could wait until Round 2 or 3 and draft someone such as Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes or Miami's Brad Kaaya. Or they could ignore the position entirely in the draft, especially since they like McCown as their backup and still have Grayson as a developmental option.

It seems even more unlikely that the Saints would get in on the Jimmy Garoppolo trade sweepstakes (if the New England Patriots are willing to trade him at all). Perhaps Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agent Mike Glennon could be considered, since Sean Payton has talked in the past about how much the Saints liked Glennon coming out in the draft.

At this point in Brees' career, nothing can be ruled out.

Previous rankings:

No. 12 Specialists

No. 11 Wide receivers

No. 10 Tight ends