MOBILE, Ala. — Saints general manager Mickey Loomis says the team will seriously evaluate quarterbacks in this year’s draft regardless of how negotiations toward a new deal with 12-year starter Drew Brees progress.
“Look, you evaluate everyone because you never know when you might make a move up to trade up higher and you end up picking in a position that you don’t expect,” Loomis said on Wednesday while meeting with reporters who are in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl. “That’s what our scouts do, what our personnel department does.”
While Loomis said negotiations with Brees on a new contract have yet to commence, he sounded optimistic that the Saints and Brees will agree on an extension as they did in 2012 and again in 2016.
“This has happened before,” Loomis said. “We want him to be our quarterback and we’ll get going on that at some point.”
Loomis offered no indication that the Saints have been anything less than thrilled with Brees’ production and leadership, as well as the way he has continued to represent the franchise.
He called Brees’ 2017 season “fantastic,” adding, “It’s beyond the numbers. It’s the leadership. He’s the face of our organization. He’s embraced being identified with New Orleans and all those things that are good for our community and him as well.
“Sometimes you feel a little awkward piling on these compliments, but he deserves them all,” Loomis added.
Brees completed an NFL-record 72 percent of his passes this season for 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
“Nothing he does should surprise any of us, right? Period,” Loomis said. “Look, we love him. The impact he’s had on our team, our organization, our city is hard to measure.”
Although Brees’ yardage totals were his lowest in 12 seasons, he did not attempt as many passes because the Saints exploited a strong running game led by fellow Pro Bowlers Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
New Orleans finished the regular season ranked second in the NFL in total offense, won the NFC South and defeated Carolina in a wild-card playoff game. The Saints were one play away from going to the NFC title game, but were eliminated dramatically on a 61-yard Vikings touchdown on the last play of a divisional-round game at Minnesota.
Brees’ contract — which was technically structured to run through 2020 for the purposes of pro-rating his signing bonus — voids automatically at the end of the current league year in March. The Saints would lose $18 million in salary cap flexibility should New Orleans and Brees fail to agree on an extension.
Regardless of the cap hit caused by either the failure or success of negotiations with Brees, Loomis said the Saints would have a plan to deal with it.
“We’ll handle that,” Loomis said. “We’ve always got a plan for our cap. … It’s what you have to do when you have some high-paying” contracts.
While Loomis has been known to base contract decisions on careful statistical analysis, he acknowledged that comparing Brees’ potential to the numbers of past 39-year-old quarterbacks is more difficult because there haven’t been many who’ve performed at an elite level. Still, Loomis gave no indication that he would use Brees’ age against the quarterback in a considerable way.
“With our coaches and our personnel department, they go by what they see,” Loomis said. “And what they see is pretty good, right?”