Should Brees be NFL's best-paid player?

Jeff Duncan has a fine column in which he spells out the reasons why New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees deserves to be the NFL’s highest-paid player, which means probably somewhere around $23 million per year.

I agree completely and Duncan nailed it when he wrote “(Brees is) younger and healthier than Peyton Manning, more valuable than Tom Brady and just plain better than Michael Vick."

More valuable than Brady? Yep, absolutely. Brady’s tremendous but New England is about a system and a coach (Bill Belichick). If something happened to Brady, the Patriots still would be capable of going to the playoffs.

Take Brees out of New Orleans’ lineup for the rest of the season. There’s enough talent and the system is good enough that backup Chase Daniel could come in and get some wins. But, even after a 3-1 start, I doubt if Daniel had to start playing this week that the Saints would end up in the playoffs.

Brees’ value to New Orleans goes way beyond his on-field effort for the Saints. He’s the glue that holds that franchise together and he’s more involved in his community than any other player in the league. New Orleans really needed Brees when he came in 2006 and continues to need him.

Do you pay a guy for community involvement? Ordinarily, no. But Brees is different and New Orleans is different.

Brees is 32 and that is a bit of an issue. If you really want to play hardball, you could make the argument that Brees is approaching the downside of his career and you shouldn’t pay a guy for past performance, when he already has been paid quite well for that. But the flip side of that is that Brees takes great care of himself. I very easily could see him having five or six more great years. Maybe even a few more beyond that.

There are salary-cap implications and general manager Mickey Loomis has to work through all that. But that’s what Loomis does for a living and he’s very good at it. His main job here is to find a way to make it work so the Saints can retain Brees for the rest of his career.

I don’t even want to think about the implications of the alternative. Brees’ contract is up after the season and the Saints could buy some time and put the franchise tag on him. But why mess around with something that obviously needs to get done?

I say sign Brees very soon.

But let’s hear your thoughts. Hit the SportsNation poll to the right and cast your vote on whether or not the Saints should make Brees the NFL’s highest-paid player. And feel free to share the reasons for your vote in the comments section below.