If anyone should know the status of contract talks between pending free agent quarterback Drew Brees, his agent Tom Condon and team officials currently going on at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, it is New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
So when Payton proclaims it won’t be a “drawn out process’’ and it should “get done fairly smoothly,” as he stated several days ago, there’s no reason to doubt him.
Though I harken back to several years ago when Payton predicted smooth sailing early on in the 2016 offseason and Brees wasn’t able to reach a contract extension until the eve of the regular season.
So stuff happens, especially when push comes to shove.
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But I can think of 18 million reasons why Brees will be under contract soon, more precisely, before the start of free agency at 3 p.m. March 14. If a new pact can’t be reached by that deadline, the Saints’ salary cap of $178 million will include Brees’ remaining pro-rated signing bonus of $18 million.
If he re-signs with the Black or Gold or not.
So it makes perfect dollars and sense to get a deal in the coming days.
But Brees’ situation isn’t the only thing on the Saints’ plate at the start of the new NFL calendar year fast approaches.
▪ Saints officials are expected to cut bait and not re-sign free agent safety Kenny Vaccaro, a first-round pick in 2013 who seemed to take one step forward and two steps back during a roller-coaster five-year stint in New Orleans. Promising youngsters Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell have made Vaccaro expendable.
▪ Veteran right tackle Zach Strief is expected to step away from the game after 12 seasons in New Orleans, leaving only Brees and punter Thomas Morstead as the lone remaining players from the Super Bowl XLIV championship team.
That position seems to be in good hands with Ryan Ramczyk, the second of two first-round picks a year ago who distinguished himself by playing every one of the team’s 1,039 snaps in his rookie season.
I believe the Saints football operations will acquit themselves well in the draft, though it will be hard-pressed to match last year’s draft haul that included five starters – NFL Offense and Defense Rookies of the Year, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and running back Alvin Kamara, Ramczyk, Williams and linebacker Alex Anzalone before a shoulder injury abruptly ended his season after four games.
My concern comes in free agency.
The Saints find themselves in good financial shape heading into free agency, approximately $34 million in cap room, though a big chunk ultimately will be dedicated to Brees. There will be the urge to sign a productive pass rusher to play opposite Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan, or a top-tier free agent to fill other roster holes at tight end, linebacker and slot receiver.
To which I say remember Jairus Byrd, Junior Galette, Brandon Browner, C.J. Spiller and Ben Grubbs, among others.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.