New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who is headed into the final year of his contract and carries a $30 million cap charge in 2016, has been widely speculated as a candidate for a potential extension this offseason.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who attended LSU’s pro day Monday, declined to offer an update on Brees’ contract situation in an interview with Saints reporters.
“I’m not going to address that,” Loomis said. “He’s under contract.”
Loomis has already declared his intent to make sure Brees, who is coming off of a season where he tossed 32 touchdowns, tied his Saints low with 11 interceptions and led the league in passing yards, is the quarterback in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Back in February, Loomis told SiriusXM radio that he planned to work the situation out in a way that works for both sides.
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton has publicly been optimistic, telling the NFL Network at the NFL Combine that he expected the contract to get done “very easily.”
Brees’ agent, Tom Condon, appeared on The Rich Eisen Show last week and said that he expected to have some conversations with the Saints in the next couple of weeks about a possible extension.
Veteran offensive tackle Zach Strief will be back with the Saints for the eleventh season of his career, Loomis indicated.
Strief, who started 15 games for the Saints last season at right tackle, is the only remaining member of the foundational 2006 draft class on the roster after this offseason’s decision to release Marques Colston and Jahri Evans.
The veteran is also one of three Saints, along with Brees and punter Thomas Morstead, remaining from the 2010 Super Bowl.
“I’m glad Zach Strief is part of our roster,” Loomis said.
Strief, who has started the past five seasons at right tackle, could face competition from 2015 first-round pick Andrus Peat for the starting role.
“We’re always interested in creating competition,” Loomis said. “We’re always interested in getting the best guys on the field, so that’ll all shake itself out.”
Peat also started four games at guard, but Loomis wasn’t willing to say the Saints’ top pick in 2015 would move inside again.
“We’re way too early to speculate anything about who’s playing and where they’re playing and all these sorts of things,” Loomis said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do here just to fill out our roster over the next couple of months, and then we’ll move to training camp, where all those questions get answered.”
The Saints signed CFL product Erik Harris to play safety, Loomis said.
Harris, who was listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, played linebacker in the CFL, but he has the speed and versatility to roam the defensive backfield.
A good athlete for his size and a former teammate of current Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux, Harris has 4.57 speed in the 40-yard dash, and he had 43 tackles and two interceptions last season.
New Orleans has a need for depth at safety. The Saints lost Rafael Bush to Detroit in free agency, and veteran Jamarca Sanford is an unrestricted free agent. The Saints get back injured safety Vinnie Sunseri, who tore his ACL in the preseason, but New Orleans has a relative lack of proven experience to back up Kenny Vaccaro and Rafael Bush.
Delvin Breaux and Willie Snead earned sizable bonuses for their contributions to the Saints last season.
Breaux led New Orleans with a $295,356 performance-based pay bonus, while Snead came in second with a bonus of $229,652, according to a source.
The performance-based pay system is designed to reward players who earn a lower salary but receive a significant amount of playing time. In the case of Breaux and Snead, who earned minimum salaries but both were key players, the system resulted in sizable bonuses.
Other players in the top 10 were guard Tim Lelito ($203,223), defensive lineman Bobby Richardson ($182 ,813), defensive lineman Tyeler Davison ($178,376), linebacker Kasim Edebali ($167,442), wide receiver Brandon Coleman ($154,078) tight end Josh Hill ($146,393), tackle Terron Armstead ($143,840) and cornerback Kyle Wilson ($123,254).
New Orleans has made it a habit of eating dinner with prospects at their pro days, and the Saints didn’t leave LSU out. A large contingent of LSU players, including Deion Jones, Lamar Louis, Vadal Alexander, ate with the Saints coaching staff after their pro day Monday.