Saints QB Drew Brees says he doesn't plan on testing free agency

METAIRIE, La. -- Drew Brees says he doesn't plan on testing the free-agent market this year or waiting until the start of the new league year on March 14 to sign a new contract with the New Orleans Saints, even if that means losing the leverage that might come with other potential suitors.

"I'm not in the mood to make anything secretive," Brees said with a laugh when asked about being chased down by the media for months with questions about his contract. "It's the same way I felt two days ago. It's the same way I felt 12 years ago. That is that I'll be here as long as they'll have me, hopefully."

Brees and Saints coach Sean Payton both stressed, however, that two days into the offseason is too early to talk about any contract decisions. So Brees said he knows that a "process" has to take place at some point in between the Saints' staff coaching in the Pro Bowl and the end-of-season meetings with coaches and scouts and the NFL scouting combine.

"We're just two days removed, so I really haven't given it a ton of thought -- other than, I know where my mindset's been the whole time, and that's that I'll be here," said Brees, who turned 39 on Monday.

Though there might not be any drama surrounding where Brees winds up, it will be interesting to see what his next deal looks like. Chances are it will be another short-term deal, since the Saints have made it clear they prefer to take things one year at a time.

The last time the two sides negotiated, they wound up agreeing to a one-year extension in September 2016 that lasted through the end of the 2017 season. Last year, they never talked seriously about a further extension.

The Saints cannot place the franchise tag on Brees, however, because of a clause in his current deal. So they will have to agree to a new contract at some point before March 16 to keep other suitors from getting a crack at him.

Brees' most recent one-year extension was worth $24.25 million, which was the fourth-highest average salary in the NFL this year, though fellow free agents Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo will likely raise the bar even further this year.

Brees' mindset is clearly on coming back with a Saints team that just suffered a stunning, last-second playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Saints exceeded most people's expectations this year by winning the NFC South with an 11-5 record and winning their playoff opener against the Carolina Panthers. And their future looks bright after two sensational draft classes.

But they expected more -- especially when they took a 24-23 lead over the Vikings with just 25 seconds remaining.

"The sting of that loss is still pretty fresh for us all, and I know we would all say that we thought we'd still be playing right now. But I think as we look back at the season and reflect, we have a lot to be proud of," Brees said Tuesday. "I feel like we have a great window of opportunity [for a Super Bowl]. I've been a part of talented teams in the past throughout my career, though, that have not lived up to expectations. I've also been a part of teams that were just gutsy and gritty, and surpassed expectations.

"So the bottom line is that success is dependent upon your willingness to work and the way that guys care about each other and the sense of urgency. So while I think we do have a talented team, I know that each year you have to go out and prove it."