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Debunking myths about Drew Brees and the Saints' salary cap

METAIRIE, La. -- Two more articles appeared on ESPN.com this week suggesting that the salary cap could force the New Orleans Saints to consider trading or releasing Drew Brees -- a popular but misguided notion that has been discussed a lot this year.

One of them looks at the annual blockbuster trade scenarios that also include mythical deals for J.J. Watt and Calvin Johnson, among others. But the idea of dumping Brees to the New York Jets for only a third-round pick is especially far-fetched.

The other post was about how costly it is for the Saints to be leading the NFL in "dead money" against the salary cap. That's a fair point, and it's a stiff price the team has paid for abandoning big contracts with Junior Galette and Jimmy Graham, among others.

But I still reject the notion that the Saints' cap constraints will force them to part ways with Brees anytime soon.

As I wrote last month, the Saints would be foolish to let Brees go until they have a solid Plan B in place. And unless they have a shot at their version of Andrew Luck in next year's draft, I don't see that Plan B yet.

As I've written, salary-cap issues are a lot more manageable than quarterback issues.

I understand the logic behind such articles. The Saints have been struggling for two years and have begun a rookie overhaul. They're already projected to be over next year's cap. And Brees, 37, is scheduled to count a whopping $30 million against that cap in 2016.

But it's not the guys at the top of the Saints' roster who have been getting crunched by New Orleans' salary-cap constraints in recent years.

Instead, it has been expensive veterans who are no longer playing at an elite level, whether it has been cutting Will Smith, Roman Harper, Curtis Lofton, Lance Moore and Pierre Thomas, or trading Ben Grubbs, or demanding pay cuts from Marques Colston, Jahri Evans and Brodrick Bunkley.

I do wonder about the fates of the Saints' three other longest-tenured players -- Colston, Evans and Zach Strief -- after this season. But those moves are always football-related as much as they are cap-related.

Brees is scheduled to earn "only" $20 million in salary and bonuses next year -- which is practically a bargain compared to deals being doled out to quarterbacks around the league these days. The other $10 million are cap costs that can't come off the books even if Brees gets traded or released.

The Saints will have to make a big decision with Brees after this season because he is heading into the final year of his contract. It will be the ideal time to extend Brees' contract, to both create some cap space and ensure that he doesn't hit free agency in 2017.

I think the Saints should and will extend Brees. But if for some reason they don't, it will be a football decision, not a cap decision.