Mobile, Ala. – In large part, the decision as to whom will be the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints in 2020 will rest with the player who has been the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints since 2006.
Drew Brees, who will become an unrestricted free agent in mid-March, will enter his 20th NFL season this fall. And Brees, the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns, remains a player the Saints trust with leading the team.
When asked Wednesday, from Mobile, Ala., host city of the Reese's Senior Bowl, if the Saints wanted Brees back, Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said, "Yeah."
"I don't think it's any different than it's been for the last few years," Loomis said. "It's easy to take him for granted, yet I don't take him for granted.
"I don't view it any different than I did a year ago or the year before that or the year before that, regardless of whether he has a contract or not. He's a good player. He's been a good player. He continues to be a good player."
In an abbreviated season – 11 games, with five missed due to a torn ligament in his right thumb that required surgery – Brees completed 74.3 percent of his passes for 2,979 yards and 27 touchdowns, with four interceptions.
New Orleans was 8-3 in games he started, won 13 regular-season games for the second consecutive season (the first time that has happened in franchise history), won the NFC South Division title for the third straight year (another unprecedented feat for the franchise) and completed its third consecutive season with at least 11 victories.
Loomis said that though the Saints lost their Wild Card playoff game at home, he was able to take a panoramic view of the season after having time to reflect and digest.
"I think that any team who makes the playoffs is a success," he said. "That's a successful season. Yet, we all have goals and aspirations more than just making the playoffs. And you really do if you've made the playoffs a number of years.
"So there's a disappointment in not going farther in the playoffs, and yet, there would be a disappointment if you don't win the Super Bowl. I recognize that. (But) I'm not going to look back and say, hey, because we lost to a really good team in the playoffs, that we were unsuccessful. I think we were successful.
"I'm excited about our team, I'm excited about the players and our coaches, our organization. We should take pride in where we're at, and yet it doesn't mean anything relative to next season other than, we've got to meet or exceed those expectations. Because we're going to have high expectations."
In addition to Brees, the Saints' other two quarterbacks, Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill, also will enter degrees of free agency. Bridgewater also will become an unrestricted free agent, while Hill is restricted, meaning that the Saints possibly can tender him an offer that gives them the right of first refusal. After Hill has been tendered, If another team makes a contract offer that New Orleans chooses not to match, the Saints can receive draft-pick compensation according to the level of the tender. If it's a first-round tender, then compensation would be that team's first-round draft pick.
As to whether it would be feasible for the Saints again to be able to retain Brees and Bridgewater, who was 5-0 as a starter in Brees' absence, Loomis said, "We'll see. We'll see."
IN GOOD HANDS: Though an emerging theory outside the organization is that the Saints need help at receiver, Loomis said he's confident in the corps that New Orleans has. "I like the group of receivers that we have," he said. "Obviously, Mike (Thomas) is an elite receiver, maybe the best in the league. Certainly, production was the best in the league and we're excited about him, continue to be excited about him. But we've got a lot of guys that we like in the room."
The receiver position in the upcoming NFL Draft is considered a deep one.
"I'm just getting into, (Coach) Sean (Payton) is just getting into, this current draft class," Loomis said. "We're just at the front of that. I think there's some really candidates here at the Senior Bowl, for example. It's a position that (assistant general manager) Jeff (Ireland) and our college guys have talked about. But I can't definitively give you any answers on what positions are deep and who we like and any of the others right now."
THE PROCESS HAS BEGUN: At his season-ending news conference, Payton said he had in mind the "musts" that the Saints needed to procure this offseason. "We have discussed our musts, our needs, our wants," Loomis said. "That's the categories we put them in. We're going through the process of what's available in free agency, what's going to be available in the draft, what are our resources that we can use to fill those. We're just going through that process."