Drew Brees wants to finish his career with the Saints.
He made that clear after leading New Orleans to a 20-17 victory at Atlanta on Sunday. And Brees left no doubt Monday that he’d be willing to extend his contract, which currently carries a $30 million salary-cap hit in 2016, the final year of his deal.
“Absolutely,” he said.
Brees’ salary-cap hit has been the subject of national speculation this season, with reports from the NFL Network swirling that he will have to give the Saints a hometown discount to finish his career in the city where he became a Hall of Famer.
New Orleans’ salary cap amount is projected to be over the league limit and, although the Saints can cut costs elsewhere, lowering Brees’ figure would offer immediate relief.
Brees turns 37 later this month, but he’s coming off an impressive season when he completed 68.3 percent of his passes for an NFL-leading 4,870 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions — all while battling through a bruised rotator cuff that forced him to miss the first game of his career with an injury and a torn right plantar fascia that affected his mobility the final two-plus games.
“I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do now that I couldn’t do 10, 15 years ago, and that includes my recovery,” Brees said. “I think a lot of that has to do with the people that I have around me, the people in our training room, my routine and all those things. So I said it before: As long as I’m having fun, can stay healthy, play at a high level — you’re gonna battle through these things throughout your career — I’m gonna play as long as I can.”
For an older player, injury recovery is one of the most difficult things to manage — particularly for a player like Brees, who spends so much time maintaining his body and getting in the right kind of shape for the season.
An injury can undermine all of that offseason work, but Brees handled both of his injuries better than anybody could have expected. In his first game back after the shoulder injury, Brees shredded Dallas by completing 33-of-41 passes for 359 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
He was even better after the foot injury. After he tore his plantar fascia against the Lions, Brees finished the last 10 quarters of the season by completing 78-of-109 passes — 71.6 percent — for 966 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Brees didn’t turn the ball over in the final four games.
“Dealing with the shoulder early in the year, obviously I’ve had — just like anybody who plays this game — a lot of things over my career that potentially could’ve sidelined you,” Brees said. “You’ve got to fight through or battle through. Never having missed a game, that was difficult just to absorb that fact at the time. But I felt like I responded well from that, just the way that my body felt, the way that my body responded.”
Brees effectively silenced talk from last offseason that he had entered the decline phase of his career. Pushing 37, he looks as capable as ever.
But don’t expect Brees to offer details on any potential negotiations until a move is made.
“If those conversations do take place, it would be between myself, my agent, (general manager) Mickey Loomis and whoever else in this organization that it needs to take place with,” Brees said last week. “(Reporters) would only know when you are ready to know.”
Brees’ contract becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster Feb. 10. If he’s still here then, he’s not going anywhere.
“I want to be here,” Brees said Sunday. “I want to play for the Saints. I don’t want to play for anybody else.”