Drew Brees would love to enter his 11th season in New Orleans with a long-term contract extension in hand, something that would erase any questions about finishing his career with the Saints once and for all.
But if the quarterback and the team don’t come to terms this summer, Brees will table any further talks until the 2016 season is complete.
Brees, who carries a $30 million salary cap hit this season as he heads into the final year of the deal he signed in 2012, has been the subject of speculation throughout the offseason, and both the Saints and the quarterback have expressed a desire to get a deal done.
Nothing has come to fruition yet, and any contract discussions have been on hold for a while, save for a brief interlude when New Orleans made a play for former Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman in free agency. Brees, who rejected the idea that contract talks have stalled, said he’s not sure why there hasn’t been much communication recently.
“I’d love a long-term deal to get done, something that would lock me up for the rest of my career,” Brees said at the Saints’ annual charity softball game on Wednesday night. “I plan on playing for a few more years, and obviously, I expect them to be here. I’m not stressing about it at all, honestly. I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought since we were talking about it, maybe a month and a half or two (ago).”
Brees’ agent, Tom Condon, has said that he believes the Saints are satisfied with the face of the franchise playing out the 2016 season under his current cap number. Both general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton have repeatedly said throughout the offseason that the team plans to sign Brees.
And even if a deal doesn’t get done before the start of the season, New Orleans will have plenty of time before the start of the league year next March to re-sign Brees and keep him in a Saints uniform.
Both Brees and the Saints have also said the quarterback won’t be affected by any uncertainty about his contract. Brees said Wednesday night that he never gave any consideration to sitting out the team’s organized team activities or any other summer work, and he plans to treat the season the same way he always has.
“Whether I’m locked up for five years or whether I have a one-year deal, it’s still the same mindset to me. I’m playing year to year and focused on what I have to prove. Is there maybe security on paper? A little bit, yeah, but it doesn’t affect my approach or my preparation.”
Brees and the Saints have been through this before.
Back in 2011, Brees completed his deal, and New Orleans used the franchise tag to retain his services before negotiating the five-year, $100-million deal that’s about to end.
During that experience, Brees learned he’d rather avoid any money talks once the season begins.
”I don’t like to talk about contract during the season. If you go back to 2011, where it began to drag into the season, three weeks in I was like, I don’t want to deal with it anymore, I want to focus on football, I want to focus on the season,” Brees said. “There’s a deal to be done now, and if it doesn’t get done now, then there’ll be a different deal to get done at the end of the year.”
Hightower ready to roll
Tim Hightower is entering this season with a different mindset.
When he arrived here last season, he was a guy trying to make a roster and prove that he was still capable of playing the game after battling a lengthy knee injury.
This year, he feels a little bit more secure. He still needs to keep his spot on the team and prove that he’s better than the other running backs on the roster, but now he knows that he can play and knows how to better assert himself in the locker room.
“I can actually use my veteran experience to my advantage from the standpoint of I want to win,” Hightower said. “I saw some things last year, you don’t know where or what’s your role. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. You don’t know when’s the right time to say something, if you should address something.
“I think this year, not necessarily being a yelling guy in the locker room, but knowing when and how to address things.”