Could Drew Brees become NFL's all-time passing leader?

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@MikeTriplett: You made me break out the calculator and do some hard math, JP. But after doing so, I think Drew Brees does have a realistic shot at it.

First of all, you’re right, Peyton Manning needs just 2,148 yards to break Brett Favre’s all-time record of 71,838. Consider that done by midseason. The bigger question is how far Manning will push the record. If he retires after this year, it could stop a little past 76,000. Another season could push it closer to 81,000.

Brees currently ranks fourth in NFL history with 56,033.

But here’s how I look at it: Manning (39) is three years older than Brees (36), Manning has played three more seasons than Brees, and Manning is currently 13,658 yards ahead of Brees.

So if Brees can average just 4,553 yards per season over the next three years, he’ll be ahead of Manning’s pace by the time he also turns 39. That’s very realistic considering Brees has averaged nearly 5,200 yards per season over the past four years.

But we’re still talking about Brees playing for at least four or five more years, averaging around 4,500 yards per season along the way.

I think it’s possible. Brees is certainly competitive and driven enough – he talked seriously last year about wanting to play until he’s 45. And as I’ve written before, I don’t think we started to see significant decline in his skill set last year. Although Brees definitely had a down year by his standard, it was mostly a problem with turnovers while he was pressing to make up for a bad defense and inconsistent pass protection.

Brees still ranked among the NFL’s top two passers in both yards and completion percentage last year. And he’s always relied more on accuracy and instincts than arm strength and physical traits.

If Brees stays healthy, I could see him remaining a top-10 NFL quarterback for another four-plus years – whether he remains in New Orleans the whole time or moves on to another QB-needy team like Manning did. Health will be the biggest hurdle, though.

@MikeTriplett: In one respect, this is virtually the same question I just answered. I think the Saints can realistically make a Super Bowl run as long as Brees remains a top-10 NFL quarterback, and I think that can still be the case for two, three, four more years (if they re-sign him past 2016, that is).

The glory days of 2009 and 2011 have passed because too many all-time great players have gotten older. That includes Brees and receiver Marques Colston. But more than anything, I think we’ve learned to appreciate just how dominant the Saints’ offensive line was in those years when guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks were the two best interior linemen in the entire league. That allowed Brees to thrive.

But I do think the Saints can still be the fourth or even 10th-best team in the NFL in a given year and get hot at the right time – like the 2011 New York Giants or the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, among others.

@MikeTriplett: My first thought is to look at the secondary, where cornerbacks Terrence Frederick and Brian Dixon have been running with the third string during OTAs after the Saints added so many new bodies in free agency and the draft. Dixon earned his roster spot mostly on special teams last year, and he’ll need to keep thriving there to hang on. Second-year pro Stanley Jean-Baptiste is also on the bubble.

Safety Jamarca Sanford is also in trouble now that fellow safeties Jairus Byrd, Rafael Bush and Vinnie Sunseri are back from injuries. Meanwhile, Sanford has been dealing with an injury of his own throughout OTAs.

As for the biggest potential surprises, I'd point to veterans who might get replaced by first-round draft picks -- offensive tackle Zach Strief and linebacker David Hawthorne. They would be high-priced backups if they get beaten out by Andrus Peat and Stephone Anthony, respectively, which could make them vulnerable. But I don't expect either to get cut. Strief has played at a high level the past two years and the Saints already paid much of Hawthorne's salary this year when they restructured his deal in the spring.