Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger | Twitter: @wwltvsports

METAIRIE, La. ― Drew Brees isn't signed to a new contract just yet, but listening to Saints coach Sean Payton, you can expect it to happen.

Asked Tuesday if he'd be 'stunned' it Brees wasn't in black and gold next season, Payton didn't miss a beat.

'Yeah,' Payton said. 'I don't even know if stun would be a strong enough word. I don't see that happening.'

He paused, letting another question begin, but started again.

'That might sell some hits on your website, but I don't see that happening,' Payton added.

Brees' contract ends when the league year finishes up. He's looking for a long-term deal and his agent, Tom Condon, has been working with the Saints for months to put the issue to bed.

The Saints quarterback of the past six seasons was at the NFL's best this season.

He broke a beaucoup of league records, including the holy grail of passing, Dan Marino's 1984 record for passing yards in a season.

Brees finished with 5,476 yards, besting the record of 5,084. His 46 touchdown passes were a franchise-record.

And his standing inside the locker room is unmatched.

In other words, Payton isn't alone in being more than stunned if Brees were to leave.

'I don't think Drew is going anywhere,' defensive end Will Smith said.

'Where will we be without Drew?' receiver Lance Moore said. 'You can't even fathom that. He has done so much. He'll definitely be around. Hopefully they take care of him and hopefully they do it soon so we can get some of these other guys locked up.'

But first-year center Brian de la Puente might have the best perspective of just what Brees means to this region.

'Drew, he is the Saints,' de la Puente said. 'He is the face of the franchise. And he means so much to the city and the fans and he's just an ambassador for the game. You have to acknowledge that.'

Payton said as of right now, there's no time table on getting a contract completed with Brees.

'Certainly, the sooner the better and yet I think this time away here initially after the season ended will be good for everyone to kind of remove yourself from the emotion of the season and you know I think will be something that would certainly be on one of our priority list,' Payton said.

Brees is expected to earn a contract somewhere in the ballpark of the Colts' Peyton Manning and the Patriots' Tom Brady. Both will earn around $18 million per year through the life of their contracts.

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