METAIRIE, La. – Drew Brees might miss only one or two games because of his latest shoulder injury.
But now that the New Orleans Saints quarterback has proven to be mortal -- missing his first game due to injury in 20 years, as he told ESPN's Ed Werder -- Brees' football mortality has become a hot-button topic.
Separate ESPN articles on Thursday speculated about whether the Saints will have to consider parting ways with Brees, 36, after this season since he is due to receive $20 million in salary and bonuses next year for a team that is already over the projected 2016 salary cap.
Even before the injury news broke at the beginning of this week, several other national media outlets were postulating that the Saints might have to "blow up" their roster after yet another disappointing 0-2 start.
Of course all of that talk is premature, since the Saints don't have to make any of these decisions for several months -- and Brees and the team could both show rapid growth by the end of this season.
But the timing of Brees' injury does stink for everyone involved.
Ideally, this was going to be a season that solidified Brees' future in New Orleans and led to a no-brainer extension at the end of this season.
Brees looked primed for a bounce-back year this summer after he had healed up from two minor injuries that nagged him during a disappointing, turnover-plagued 2014 season. Both Brees and coach Sean Payton talked this summer about how strong he looked and felt throwing the football.
Now, everything about the Saints' future seems cloudier.
Ultimately, I still think the Saints should and will extend Brees beyond 2016, which is the final year of his current contract. Even if he misses several weeks with this shoulder injury and the Saints miss the playoffs for the second straight year, Brees should still have plenty of good years left in him.
He is three years younger than Peyton Manning and two years younger than Tom Brady, a guy people were having some of these same discussions about this time last year. By all accounts, this latest shoulder injury is one that will heal without surgery, whether it takes a matter of weeks or months.
The Saints would be foolish to dump Brees before they have an obvious alternative plan in place. Maybe rookie Garrett Grayson could emerge as a possibility down the road -- but he is nowhere close to a proven option yet.
Yes, Brees is scheduled to count $27.4 million against next year's cap, which is a huge number. But they can drop that a little by extending his contract. And $20 million per year has become the going rate for quarterbacks. Brees is practically a bargain compared to some of the other deals teams have been forced to hand out to lesser quarterbacks in recent years.
I'm not saying the future looks bright for the Saints right now. They do have cap issues after abandoning the big contracts they paid out to Jimmy Graham and Junior Galette last year. Their mega-contract to safety Jairus Byrd hasn't panned out yet, either, because of injuries. They need to keep rebuilding their offensive line and defense to reinvent themselves, now that their glory years of 2009 and 2011 have passed them by.
However, they need to solve all those issues without creating a much bigger one. Unless the Saints see a can't-miss opportunity to obtain their own Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers then Brees should remain their quarterback until his arm falls off.
Cap issues are much more manageable than quarterback issues.