Saints Face Significant Offseason Decisions
Drew Brees needs a contract extension. 27 players will be unrestricted free agents. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas have no idea if they will be Saints next year. These are only a few stories about the Saints important offseason. Mike Triplett of the Times Picayune takes a closer look at some pressing offseason issues for boys in black and gold.
Nearly half of the 65 players who ended the season on the New Orleans Saints' roster or injured reserve list could become free agents. That alone would make for the busiest offseason the team has had since it rebuilt the roster in 2006.
But further complicating matters, the Saints don't know if or when the free-agent signing period will begin, because there is no collective bargaining agreement in place between owners and players. They don't know if players will become unrestricted free agents with four, five or six years of service. They don't know if the franchise and transition tags will return, and they don't know if the salary cap will return, or how high it might climb if it does.
The Saints aren't the only team in this boat. The league is flooded with potential free agents thanks to the changes to the CBA in 2010. Indianapolis Colts General Manager Bill Polian said his team is preparing its offseason plans based on four scenarios.
But Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton insisted this week they don't consider the upcoming task a daunting challenge.
"Hey, we'll deal with it," Loomis said. "We've had years before where we've had lots of guys. We've had years with just a few guys. We'll deal with it on an individual basis. It's not more work than we can handle, put it that way."
Whenever the NFL gets back to business, here are the most pressing contract issues facing the Saints:
Re-sign Drew Brees
This won't be the most immediate priority, because Brees is under contract through 2011. But he's the most important player on the roster.
Rest assured, Brees isn't going anywhere. This is a deal that will get done, probably this summer. The Saints and Brees' agent, Tom Condon, may wait until after another Condon client, Peyton Manning, signs his deal with Indianapolis to set the market. Manning's deal is expected to be in the range of $20 million per year. Brees' extension probably will be in the same ballpark as Manning's deal and the recent four-year, $72 million extension that Tom Brady signed with New England.
Other prominent Saints heading into the last year of their contracts include cornerback Tracy Porter and receivers Marques Colston and Robert Meachem. In a normal year, this would be a time to negotiate contract extensions. This year they might have to wait in line.
Determine RBs value
The Saints' backfield was battered in 2010, with five tailbacks finishing the season on injured reserve and two others going down in their playoff finale. So does that make the position a higher priority heading into 2011, or did the Saints learn that it's not worth investing heavily at such an injury-prone position?
Because the window of opportunity to win Super Bowls is slim in the NFL, this offseason is arguably the most important in history. Having a quarterback like Drew Brees in his prime, coming off an 11 win season, another season removed from a Super Bowl, and the Saints can get back there with right offseason moves.