Brees returning to New Orleans assures Payton

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Drew Brees
Drew Brees could command the biggest contract for a quarterback in NFL history.
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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — While Drew Brees could potentially become a free agent this winter and shop around for another team, that scenario strikes Saints coach Sean Payton as a bit far-fetched.

“I don’t even know if stunned would be a strong enough word,” Payton said Tuesday after players had been dismissed for the season following their playoff loss at San Francisco. “I don’t see that happening.”

Brees has thrown for more yards than any NFL quarterback since joining the Saints in 2006 and passed for an NFL record 5,476 yards this season, breaking Dan Marino’s 27-year-old mark of 5,084.

Brees was among a number of players who had already left town and were not available for comment on Tuesday, but he has also said he expected an extension with New Orleans to eventually be completed.

The coaching staff is slated to take all of next week off and Payton did not want to discuss a timetable for completing a new deal with Brees.

“Certainly, the sooner the better, and yet I think this time away here initially after season ended will be good for everyone to kind remove yourself from the emotion of the season,” the coach said.

Still, Payton acknowledged free agency will be challenging for the Saints because other key players from his record-setting offense have expiring contracts, including Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston.

“This season, certainly, there are some real good players that potentially are free agents,” Payton said. “Each year those are challenges and that’s what makes it hard to win in our league. … We’ll look closely at it and try to be objective.”

Other key free agents include cornerback Tracy Porter, receiver Robert Meachem, defensive tackles Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers, and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

New Orleans also needs a new defensive coordinator after Gregg Williams’ expected decision to join Jeff Fisher’s new staff in St. Louis.

Payton said it was apparent before the season ended that Williams, with his contract expiring, was likely going to join Fisher, an old friend under whom he coached for in Tennessee for a decade.

“It was a matter of getting through the season and not allowing it to be distraction,” Payton said, adding that the Saints and Williams never discussed an extension.

Payton says he’ll take his time and keep an open mind about assistant coaching candidates. In addition to defensive coordinator, there is also a wide receivers coach opening because of Curtis Johnson’s earlier decision to become head coach at Tulane after the Saints’ 2011 campaign ended.

“Real talented coaches come in all age groups and they come from all over. They come from college, they come from our league. Some have been head coaches, some haven’t,” Payton said. “I just look back on my own experiences. Someone gave me an opportunity for the first time. So you try to pay attention to all those things. … But I don’t think you try to just profile (and say): `Here’s exactly what we’re looking for.’ … We try to keep an open mind.”

New Orleans won 14 games this season and had its sights set on a second Super Bowl in three seasons before falling in the final seconds to the 49ers on Saturday, snapping a nine-game winning streak that included a comfortable first-round playoff victory over Detroit.

“It was a disappointing way to finish the season, obviously, and that’s the hard thing about the finality of the postseason in our league,” Payton said. “You recognize how this league is, and that missed opportunity, if you will.”

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