Yes, Drew Brees is 38 years old. And yes, teams desperate for a quarterback often find themselves reaching for players like Brock Osweiler. But the New Orleans Saints have time to look for Brees’s heir. And they will be patient.
There’s no reason to panic if the New Orleans Saints don’t find a quarterback this offseason. Rumors have swirled about the Saints’ possible interest in Deshaun Watson or Jimmy Garoppolo, but there’s no reason to believe the team is desperate to make a move.
They very well might. I don’t mean to suggest they have no QBs on their radar. Payton praised Watson in a recent interview and has followed Garoppolo’s career with interest. But even with Drew Brees having just turned 38, they have time to be patient with the position.
Brees will likely play for at least two years, and possibly for longer.
Drew has said as much himself, and I expect at this point it sounds like old news to a lot of you. Father time is, as always, undefeated. And many people are quick to point out the cliff that Peyton Manning suddenly fell off in his last year in the league. The concern is that, even though Brees has shown no sign of decline, there’s no telling when the wheels might fall off.
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But Manning and Brees are entirely different athletes. I’d sooner compare Brees to Tom Brady, who, at 39, is still playing some of his best football. Brady says he has no plans to retire. Hell, he says that he feels better at 39 than he did at 25. And I don’t think he’s making that up.
Athletes like Brees and Brady take care of their body to an absurd degree. And they’re doing so in a way that athletes have never done before. Payton said as much in his interview on the Dan Patrick Show, explaining that “these guys are so much further along in their rest, their recovery, nutrition.” He said that he and the organization have seen no signs of any decline in Brees’ athletic ability. And having watching Brees through 16 games in 2016, I can’t say I’ve seen any signs either. Not that I would, if they hadn’t.
There is still a sense of urgency in the organization to right the ship before Brees retires.
But the breathing room of a few years will be crucial to taking sound steps towards Super Bowl contention.
Breathing room allows the Saints to make smart, low-risk moves in free agency that they’ve had success with in recent years. Moves like Craig Robertson. It allows them to draft project players like David Onyemata.
And most importantly, it allows them to either: find a young, solid quarterback prospect that they like, whether in free agency or the draft, and develop him for a few years; or, conversely, to pass on a prospect that they don’t like without fear of coming out of the offseason without a quarterback.
As Payton said in the Dan Patrick interview, the move for Brees’s replacement doesn’t have to happen the year he’s actually replaced. There’s no reason not to draft a prospect they like even if they’ll have to sit on the bench for a while. There’s nothing more crippling to a team than quarterback problems.
But so long as Brees looks as good and healthy as he says he feels, there’s no rush.
Who knows, maybe Garrett Grayson will develop into a respectable prospect. He had a rough start to his career, but stranger things have happened.
And maybe the Saints bring in a free agent quarterback when Brees retires. I’m sure Sean Payton will have no lack of eager quarterbacks ready to be the next Brees.
And maybe the Saints will go after someone like Watson. (Chances are slim to none on Garoppolo.) But whatever the Saints do, they have the freedom to be patient and make the right choice. They won’t feel rushed into going after a quarterback this offseason. So don’t panic if McCown is still backing up Brees in 2017.