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Monday, January 27, 2014
Ranking Saints needs: No. 12 Quarterback

By Mike Triplett

A position-by-position look at where the New Orleans Saints stand heading into the 2014 offseason -- ranked from 1-12 in order of the team’s need for upgrades or replacements.

2013 depth chart:

Drew Brees. Age 35, signed through 2016. 2014 salary and bonuses: $11 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $18.4 million.

Luke McCown. Age 32, unrestricted free agent.

Ryan Griffin. Age 24, scheduled to become restricted free agent in 2016.

Analysis:

Brees is still in his prime. And though his home/road splits were too inconsistent in 2013, his overall performance was one of his best. Statistically, Brees had one of his top three seasons as a Saint in just about every relevant category, with 5,162 yards, 39 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. So he remains the No. 1 reason why the Saints will still be bona fide Super Bowl contenders in 2014 and beyond.

Brees’ salary and cap figure are obviously big numbers -- and they will only get bigger when they jump to $19 million in salary and bonuses and a $26.4 million cap hit in 2014. That will make it tough for the Saints to consider restructuring his deal this offseason to push even more cap costs into future years. But they might consider it since Brees isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and they could always work out some sort of cap-friendly extension down the road.

Even though those are big numbers to work around, Brees is worth every penny -- especially compared to the new deals that lesser quarterbacks have been signing around the NFL since Brees’ deal in 2012. It’s possible that Brees and the Saints could consider an affordable extension in the next year or two like Tom Brady signed with the New England Patriots last year. But an actual pay cut isn’t likely or necessary.

As for the backup jobs, I feel like I've been asked for the last two or three years now whether the Saints should consider drafting a future replacement. I still think it’s too early to invest a high draft pick in one. I think Brees has at least three or four good years left in him, and by that time a 2014 rookie would be headed toward free agency. If the Saints see a guy they really like in the middle or late rounds, though, it's possible.

And who knows, maybe Griffin could turn out to be that guy if he delivers on his potential. I think Griffin has a great chance to win the Saints' backup job in 2014, though I still expect the Saints to bring in a veteran for him to compete against -- most likely McCown on a veteran-minimum deal.