Saints mailbag, Part 1: Last year of Drew Brees era?

Thanks for submitting your New Orleans Saints questions to me on Twitter. Send them anytime @MikeTriplett. And stay tuned for Part 2 of this week's mailbag on Sunday.

@MikeTriplett: If the Saints move on from Drew Brees, it won't be just because they can't afford the salary-cap cost of his contract. In fact, New Orleans is actually projected to begin next offseason under the cap for a change. And if the Saints choose to, they could lower Brees' cap figure by working out a contract extension before he heads into the final year of his current deal in 2016. The only way the Saints will move on from Brees is if they feel very, very good about a backup plan -- if they fall in love with a draft prospect that they feel they can develop into a great QB or if they see an opportunity to get good value in free agency. But both of those scenarios are long shots (just ask the teams who are treading water throughout the NFL, desperate to find a quality QB). Yes, Brees' production has started to dip a bit at age 36. But I believe he'll remain a top-10 starter in the NFL for at least two or three more years, and I think the Saints have the same level of confidence in him. And frankly, $20 million per year is still a bargain, since Brees actually ranks fifth in the NFL now in average salary (behind Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco -- with new mega-deals for Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck still to come).

@MikeTriplett: That's interesting, I hadn't actually considered that before. But no, I wouldn't call it a "concern," because it's not like we're talking about a bunch of busts. The only one who is out of the NFL today is defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (2008). Ellis comes the closest to being labeled a bust, especially since he was the seventh overall pick. But he was a starter for five years, including the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl season. All the other guys have been solid, if unspectacular (Reggie Bush at No. 2 in 2006, Robert Meachem at No. 27 in 2007, Malcolm Jenkins at No. 14 in 2009, Patrick Robinson at No. 32 in 2010, Cameron Jordan at No. 24 in 2011, Mark Ingram at No. 28 in 2011, Kenny Vaccaro at No. 15 in 2013, Brandin Cooks at No. 20 in 2014). You'd like to see more Pro Bowlers in that group (Jordan and Ingram are the only ones). But based on where they were all drafted, I'd say none of them significantly overachieved or underachieved. They all just "achieved" at about the expected rate.

@MikeTriplett: This comment is in reference to coach Sean Payton saying the Saints have talked with Cameron Jordan's agent about a long-term extension -- which I actually do think makes sense (for the Saints, at least). First of all, Jordan is a known commodity. The Saints have seen him in the starting lineup for four years, under three different coordinators, in 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, playing end and tackle. He's stayed healthy. He seems to be a good locker room guy. He has consistenly been an outstanding run defender. And he has flashed big-time pass-rush ability, especially in 2013, though that has been the most inconsistent part of his game (and disappeared too often last year). My point is that the Saints don't need to "find out more" about Jordan by watching him play for one more season. However, you are definitely correct that it won't be all that easy to identify Jordan's exact price tag. Jordan probably won't accept a hometown discount coming off a "down" season. He might prefer to gamble on himself that he can raise his asking price with a good year and the threat of hitting the open market. New Orleans will have to pay close to top dollar to lock him up long-term. That could still make sense for the Saints, though. Jordan can be a core player for their defense going forward at a vital position -- Payton said they consider Jordan "part of the solution." Plus, they could create immediate salary-cap relief in 2015 by getting a long-term deal done, and they still need at least $2 million in cap space this year before they sign their draft picks.