NEW ORLEANS (AP) Drew Brees asserts that his contract talks with the Saints haven't hampered the club's ability to acquire top free agents this offseason because he is committed to negotiating an extension that would improve the Saints' financial flexibility.
The quarterback said in an interview with the Associated Press that he was ''on board'' with New Orleans' recent bid to sign former Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, who decided to play instead for Washington, signing a five-year deal with the Redskins worth up to $75 million. Brees dismissed the notion that uncertainty surrounding his own contract undermined New Orleans' ability to compete for Norman's services.
''We all understand that's not the case,'' Brees said. ''He went to Washington as his first visit. And if you know anything about free agency, usually, that's the visit where, once you're in that office, the deal's getting done and Washington is a place where, historically, you'd say Washington's got the deepest pockets.
''From my perspective, we made a pretty strong push to try to get him and obviously I was on board 100 percent and willing to do whatever we needed to do,'' Brees added.
Brees spoke with the AP this week during promotional work for a Tempur-Pedic mattress designed to dissipate heat. The quarterback is appearing in a comedic series of commercials for the mattress company with Saints center Max Unger.
Brees is entering the final year of a five-year, $100 million contract he signed in 2012. The deal currently counts $30 million against New Orleans' salary cap, but an extension could spread out the salary cap figure for Brees' pay over the next several years, thus lowering this year's figure and giving the Saints more cap room.
The NFL's 2016 salary cap is $155 million per team. The Saints' current player payroll is already within a few million dollars of hitting that number with the draft coming up this week, starting with Thursday night's first round.
While Brees' negotiations with New Orleans have continued at a methodical pace, quarterbacks around the NFL have gotten raises, essentially improving Brees' market value. Although Brees is 37, his 4,870 yards passing last season ranked first in the NFL, even though he missed a game with a sprained shoulder. He also passed for 32 touchdowns in 2015, which tied for seventh league-wide and was only four behind Tom Brady's league-leading 36.
So while the Saints are coming off of consecutive 7-9 seasons, their quarterback's play has remained elite.
''Do I want to sign an extension? Yes, I do. Do the Saints feel that way? Yes. Do the fans feel that way? Yes. So we all agree on that,'' Brees said. ''That's what we're trying to do, is sign an extension that would not only keep me there but also reallocate money so that it opens cap room in various ways that would kind of fit the team and what we need. ... So I would say we're all being pro-active in that way.
''There's no timeline or deadline to this. It's very open-ended,'' Brees added. ''Maybe once the draft occurs and now you've got kind of all the pieces in place that you feel like, this is what we need and this is our team moving forward, then you're in a better position to predict the cap for this year, next year and so forth.''
Heading into the draft, New Orleans' greatest need appears to be getting help for a defense that has ranked second-to last in the NFL the past two seasons. But the Saints' 12th overall draft pick also puts them in range of selecting a top quarterback prospect.
''I trust our team to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the team, not just for this year but moving forward,'' Brees said. ''So if they feel like there's a quarterback in the draft that's going to be the future of the franchise, then by all means, draft him. But I plan on this being my job for quite a while.''
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