Brian Allee-Walsh

Saints officials head to Indy combine with quarterback on their minds

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, file photo, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wis. The Saints are trying to get Brees signed to a contract before free agency starts March 14.
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, file photo, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wis. The Saints are trying to get Brees signed to a contract before free agency starts March 14. AP

While the search to find Drew Brees’ eventual successor resumes next week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Indiana, the quest to re-sign Drew Brees by New Orleans Saints GM Mickey Loomis begins in earnest in the same city.

Talks reportedly are expected to take on a more serious nature between Loomis and Brees’ agent, Tom Condon, in an effort to get a short-term, mega-buck guaranteed deal done before free agency commences March 14.

Before $18 million in Brees’ pro-rated signing bonus automatically counts against the Saints’ 2018 salary cap.

Before potential suitors would come a courtin’ to lure engine No. 9 away from the Big Easy and Who Dat Nation after 12 mostly Hall of Fame-caliber seasons.

I’m not sounding an alarm. I firmly believe Brees will close out his career in the Black and Gold, though when is anyone’s guess.

I’m just saying anything is possible, and until Loomis shows Brees money comparable to what the highest paid NFL QBs are being paid (i.e., Jimmy Garoppolo/$27.5 million average annually), well, anything is possible.

Know this: Only one Saints QB is currently under contract for 2018 — unproven BYU alum Taysom Hill, an athletic 27-year-old with a ton of potential and perhaps Brees’ heir apparent, according to Coach Sean Payton.

Hill showed his athleticism on special teams late last season. But as Jim Mora used to say “potential don’t mean diddly poo.’’

Backup Chase Daniel also becomes a free agent March 14. And while Daniel knows the Saints playbook inside and out after spending four seasons in Payton’s system, only nine of Daniel’s 78 NFL passes have come while playing in New Orleans.

And he’s no spring chicken at age 31.

Thus, Brees holds all the cards here. Sure, Saints coaches and scouts will do their due diligence and evaluate all prospective draft-eligible quarterbacks at the combine, most notably the purported nine frontrunners — USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Washington State’s Luke Falk, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Western Kentucky’s Mike White.

I suspect all but Rosen, Darnold and Mayfield will be available to the Saints at No. 27 in the first round. Though, I don’t see the Saints eyeing a QB at No. 27, several national draft-niks have targeted Falk (Peter King/SI’s MMQB) and Jackson (CBSsports.com) in that spot.

Until the Brees’ matter gets resolved, the speculation and idle chatter will persist and the topic will continue to dominate the Saints’ big picture conversation going forward.

The clock is ticking.

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