Opinion: Considering where Saints are headed, Brees owes it to himself to leave

BATON ROUGE – New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees – easily the greatest player in franchise history – signed in essence a one-year extension through the 2017 season on Wednesday.

Brees, 37, will make $44.25 million over the next two seasons. He was on the last year of his five-year deal that he signed after the 2011 season, which was one of the greatest for any quarterback in NFL history as he led one of the best offenses in NFL history. With a little defense at San Francisco in the playoffs that season, the Saints would have hosted the New York Giants in the Superdome the next week for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The Saints owned the Giants during this period, so it is not a reach to say the Saints would have made their second Super Bowl in two seasons.

Can you imagine? Hopefully, because it never happened and since the Saints left their defense in San Francisco, they have been to the playoffs once since then and gone 7-9 three times in four seasons.

If the Saints are lucky, they will go 7-9 in the 2016 season, which opens Sunday at noon with the Oakland Raiders visiting the Louisiana Superdome. If Brees is lucky, he won’t be lost for the season because of an injury as Saints coach Sean Payton and his assistant - general manager Mickey Loomis - have gradually let what was once a great offensive line disintegrate.

Payton has forgotten how to draft or find players through free agency and the waiver wire as well as he did from 2006 through 2011, and Loomis never really could do either when he was working with former coach Jim Haslett and hastened his firing because of that, yet somehow he remains.

On Wednesday, the Saints cut quarterback Garrett Grayson, who was a third round pick just last year. The FBI needs to help the Saints look for missing persons from their recent drafts.

Payton and Loomis have been looking for offensive linemen for years, and they just can’t seem to find anyone very good. La’el Collins was 87 miles away in Baton Rouge and undrafted in 2015 because of an overreaction by the NFL to his need to be questioned in a murder case which he apparently had nothing to do with. And his agent and lawyer cost him millions by not telling him to meet with well-meaning police in Baton Rouge to clear his name before the draft – not after. Dallas owner Jerry Jones then had Collins over to his house, signed him, and Collins became the Cowboys starting left guard last season, and he will start there Sunday.

Sean, I could have driven La’el down Airline Highway.

On Wednesday, the Saints signed one of their offensive line draft choices – a pick from 2006, that is. Jahri Evans, a pillar at right guard from 2006 through 2015 for the Saints, was cut by New Orleans in February. He was recently cut by Seattle, which also has a weak offensive line. And now he’s back in New Orleans. He’s 10 years older than Collins.

The Saints took offensive tackle Andrus Peat with the 13th pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Like most of the Saints picks since the 2012 draft, he has been a disappointment so far. He is also having to play out of position at guard, where the Saints have created a sinkhole of personnel failures. Collins is better than Peat, and could have been acquired for much less money, Mr. Benson.

The only thing worse than Payton’s player picks have been his defensive coordinator hires since 2009 when he hired Gregg Williams, who was the Buddy Ryan to Payton’s Mike Ditka during the Saints’ Super Bowl winning season in 2009-10 – about a quarter of a century after the Bears’ run in 1985-86. Without Williams, Payton has been gradually becoming Ditka post Ryan – commercials and all.

Payton’s two defensive coordinator hires post Williams – Steve Spagnuolo and Buddy’s son Rob Ryan – were disasters. They met on opposite sides of the field in the Superdome on November 1, 2015, and one of the greatest offensive displays in NFL history transpired. You can really pick ‘em, Sean.

The 13 combined touchdown passes by Brees (7) and Eli Manning (6) were the most in a game in NFL history. Brees’ seven tied the record for touchdown passes by a quarterback. His 511 passing yards were just 43 short of the NFL mark and were the most allowed in the 91-year history of the Giants, whose 49 points were also the most in a loss in club history.

New Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen in many ways has the easiest job in the NFL as it will be difficult for him to do worse than his TWO predecessors.

So, Drew, considering the way things have gone and figure to continue, I would say that after another 7-9 or 8-8 season in 2017, go forth and prosper for another team. You have not been the problem and will not be the problem with the Saints. And when you consider how underpaid you were from 2006 through 2011, the top quarterback dollar you have made since 2012 only evens all that out. The money the Saints have paid beginning in 2012 did not hurt the rest of the team. The bad players drafted and selected by Payton and the money they made is what has hurt this team.

If anyone with the Saints is overpaid, it is Payton, a 14-18 coach the last two years making $8 million a year, not Brees.

Brees’ new contract actually helps the Saints with salary cap money.

"The cap situation to me was the most important element to this," he said. "Over the next few years, we want to put our team in the best position to keep talent and acquire talent and the right type of guys that fit what we're trying to accomplish here."

Thanks, Drew. Now, how about you help Payton pick some new players?

Brees said Wednesday he has more than two years left in him. If anyone can play well into his early 40s, it is Brees … if he can survive 37 and 38 with the Saints.

"I plan to play for longer than two years,” said Brees, who wanted a five-year deal. "I think my mindset going into this was to be able to secure a deal that would take me for as long as I plan on playing, but this was what was in the best interest of the team and so, that's why it was a two-year deal."

So spend your last two or three on a team that is going places beyond 7-9. You deserve it more than the Saints deserve you.

(© 2016 WWL)


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