By Nick Shook
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Drew Brees doesn’t want to play anywhere but New Orleans.
That’s fine and dandy, but there are a few details that make that less than guaranteed. Brees is in the final year of his contract. The quarterback is 38 years old. And while this might sound preposterous, the Saints are the least reliant upon him that they’ve ever been in his time in New Orleans.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported recently that the Saints are unsure of Brees’ future status, in part because of his contract, and also because of the expectation that he will want a large sum of money. With all of that considered, it sounds like this isn’t a situation that will be easily, or at least quickly resolved.
“I’ll handle 2018 when 2018 gets here, but right now I’m in the moment, I’m in 2017,” Brees said during an appearance on Hardwick & Richardson XTRA 1360-AM. “We’re trying to get a little bit better each and every week. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us and I don’t plan on leaving New Orleans ever.
“Hopefully, I know all of that stuff takes care of itself when it’s supposed to. I have not approached them about any contract. We just have a great understanding here. Listen, we’re going to go through this season and we’ll revisit it in the offseason. Right now, I’m in the moment.”
At 7-2 overall and in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, it’s a pretty great moment in which to exist. Brees is in the captain’s chair of an offense that ranks second in the NFL with an average of 402.4 yards per game. Brees is seventh in the league in passing yards per game (266.4).
That first number is typical of the Saints— New Orleans has finished first or second in yards per game in all but one of its last five seasons — but there’s a massive difference this season that could be pointing to a permanent change in style, which might be driven by the status of Brees.
In those five aforementioned seasons, the Saints averaged over 300 yards passing in all but one, and in that outlier (2014), they were just a hair under 300 at 297.8. But this season, the Saints are averaging 402.4 yards per game, with only 260.2 coming through the air. Thanks to a ground game powered by effective blocking and a two-headed attack of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, New Orleans has made a drastic improvement, going from 108.9 rushing yards per game in 2016 to 142.4 in 2017.
The Saints simply don’t need to place all of their offensive hopes on the arm of Brees anymore, which makes this contract situation slightly more intriguing. Will New Orleans, a team that’s long been mired in the salary cap underworld and will have approximately $31 million in cap space in 2018 (per Spotrac), be willing to funnel $25 million (or more, considering Matthew Stafford‘s league-leading annual average of $27 million) to a quarterback who turns 39 in January?
Saints fans should follow Brees’ plan and live in the moment. They might not get too many more with No. 9 under center.