<
>

No talks with Drew Brees yet, but Mickey Loomis says Saints want him back

MOBILE, Ala. -- Mickey Loomis said the New Orleans Saints haven’t started any negotiations yet with quarterback Drew Brees, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March.

But the Saints general manager stated the obvious when he said, “We want him to be our quarterback, and we’ll get going on that at some point.”

“There’s not a lot to say. Listen, he doesn’t have a contract, which has happened before,” Loomis said. “We just finished our season. ... We’ll get to it. I’m not anticipating any big issues, so we’ll see.”

Likewise, Brees said last week that he doesn’t plan to test the free-agent market this year and would like to sign a new deal with the Saints even before other teams can begin talking to him on March 12. The Saints cannot place the franchise tag on Brees because of a clause in his most recent contract.

Neither side has shown much urgency or concern over Brees’ contract status over the past two years. Brees, who turned 39 earlier this month, has publicly expressed his desire to stay in New Orleans “as long as they’ll have me.” But because of his age, the Saints would prefer to pay him one year at a time, and Brees has so far obliged rather than threaten to leave for a higher bidder.

Therefore it’s likely that Brees’ next contract might be another one-year deal, or at least one without much guaranteed money beyond 2018.

Brees’ willingness to play without long-term guarantees has been his version of a “hometown discount,” even though he has so far continued to be paid among the league’s elite quarterbacks (his most recent extension was worth one year and $24.25 million, signed during Week 1 of the 2016 season).

Loomis acknowledged that there aren’t many historical precedents of quarterbacks playing at Brees’ level into their 40s, though one of them, Tom Brady, is leading the New England Patriots to his eighth Super Bowl at age 40.

But, Loomis said, “I think with our coaches and our personnel department, they go by what they see, and what they see is pretty good, right?”

“Nothing he does should surprise any of us, right?” Loomis said. “Look, we love him. The impact he’s had on our team, our organization, our city is hard to measure. Nothing surprises me that he does.

“I thought [Brees’ 2017 season] was fantastic. Look, it’s beyond the numbers. It’s the leadership. He’s the face of our organization. He’s embraced being identified with New Orleans and all those things that are good for our community and him as well. Sometimes you feel a little awkward piling on these compliments, but he deserves them all.”

Brees’ salary-cap situation complicates things a bit, since he has an $18 million dead-money hit that will count against New Orleans’ cap whenever his contract runs out (something the Saints can further delay by re-signing him). But Loomis chalked that up to a known cost the team has been planning on for years.

“Look, we’ll handle that,” Loomis said. “We’ve always had a plan for our cap, and it’s just part of cap planning. That’s what you have to do when you have some high-paid guys, [which] we have.”

Loomis declined to talk specifically about any other pending free agents, such as safety Kenny Vaccaro and offensive lineman Senio Kelemete, or pending restricted free agents such as receiver Willie Snead and cornerback Delvin Breaux.

Loomis said the team has not yet completed postseason evaluations on all of the players -- and, let’s be honest, he wouldn’t share those evaluations publicly regardless.