News & Info/Headlines

Brees Agrees To 6-Year, $60 Million Deal With Saints...
As insider John Clayton framed it a short time ago: "Early in his career, there were questions about Drew Brees having a slow release.

"That wasn't the case Tuesday when he pulled the trigger on a six-year, $60 million deal with the New Orleans Saints that included a $10 million signing bonus. ..."

Brees' decision came within minutes of the Dolphins dropping out of the bidding when they traded a second-round choice for Daunte Culpepper.

Chris Mortensen, appearing today on ESPN Radio's "Dan Patrick Show," told listeners that Miami was concerned about both Brees' price tag and his shoulder. This could explain the alacrity with which Brees agreed to terms with the Saints, who might have had a change of heart if given time to review those concerns.

All along, the Saints had more money and more guarantees on the table for Brees and wanted to use his name as the marquee for ticket sales, sales that have been hot because of the Saints' return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

According to Clayton, Brees rejected the Dolphins' idea of lowering his demands for guarantees because the Saints made a promise to his agent, Tom Condon.

In the end, Brees didn't budge. And by all accounts, he seemed to be more than willing to play in New Orleans.

In an article published Monday, New Orleans Times-Picayune staffer Mike Triplett reported that Brees, who has spent much of the last two years feeling somewhat unwanted in San Diego, seemed to enjoy the red-carpet treatment he and wife received during their two-day visit to New Orleans.

He said the condition of the city and the organization in the wake of Katrina was not a concern, but rather a chance to do great things.

"The opportunity to come to a place that kind of needs that rebuilding and maybe that resurgence, there's something to be said for being a part of that," said the 27-year-old quarterback, who went on to suggest he was enticed by a similar opportunity when he chose to play at Purdue University. "It's the opportunity to maybe be a part of something special, maybe do something that some people think you can't do. There's meaning to that."

Brees will take over for Aaron Brooks, who is expected to be released by the Saints after his worst season since taking over as the starter in 2000.

Brees has spent his entire five-year career with the Chargers, throwing for more than 3,000 yards in three of the past four seasons. He led the Chargers to a playoff appearance in 2004.

"You've got a young ascending player who's proven at this level he can win," Saints head coach Sean Payton said of Brees before the deal was completed.

And Bees comes to New Orleans with high recommendations.

Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells has always been a big fan of the former Purdue star and advised his Payton, his former assistant, to take Brees if he had the chance.

Brees spent the last five seasons with the Chargers but reached a stalemate with them on a new contract. The Chargers' reluctance to re-sign him came after Brees tore the labrum and damaged the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder in the final game last season and underwent surgery Jan. 5.

He said Sunday that he faces another four or five months of recovery and doesn't anticipate any long-term effects.

In fact, Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, issued a statement on March 3 advising potential suitors that his patient is ahead of schedule in his recovery.

"At this point, he is eight-plus weeks post-op and is ahead of schedule relative to his healing process and recovery," said Andrews. "He has divided his time here in Birmingham, working under our shoulder rehab specialist Kevin Wilk, along with rehabbing in San Diego.

"Our plan is to start him on an interval football throwing program at the four-month interval, which will allow him to participate in some drills during an anticipated May mini-camp."

Wilk -- one of the top specialists in his field -- has been impressed with Brees.

"There are guys that get hurt and wait for (the recovery) to happen," Wilk said early in February. "He's making it happen."

For the record, Payton said the Saints spent a lot of time researching the injury and talking with Andrews. "To these guys, the shoulder's a non-issue," Brees said after meeting with the Saints. "I think they know, just like I know, where I'm going to be when it counts."

And they clearly believe that will be on the field.

Brees started 58 games in San Diego and had his breakout season in 2004, leading the Chargers to the playoffs and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. He was 20-11 as a starter over the past two years and after visiting with him over the weekend, Payton lauded Brees' intangibles.

"At that position, there's some characteristics that really don't change for successful players," the coach explained. "And when you study those, identify those, I think he's one of those guys that has those characteristics that we're looking for certainly what I'm looking for."

Payton told Triplett the characteristics that are common among winning quarterbacks don't include size and shape. He is not bothered by the fact that Brees is smaller than his peers at 6 feet, 209 pounds.

Payton, a quarterback specialist throughout his coaching career, said there is "no question" that Brees fits into the type of offense he plans to run with the Saints.

"He has good timing, good release. I think he anticipates real well," Payton said. "He's a competitor. He gets rid of the ball on time. He's quick to make decisions. He's a good decision-maker. I think he's a good leader. And those are the things that attract us to a player like him."

Payton said it would give the Saints "flexibility" on their draft board if they sign Brees, but he stopped short of saying that they won't draft a quarterback.

Many observers expected the Saints to use their first-round pick, the second overall, on Southern Cal's Matt Leinart, who is expected to be available at that position.

Asked during his weekend visit about the possibility competing with a rookie quarterback, Brees said: "My mind-set is I'm not competing against anybody but myself. Otherwise you never reach your full potential. ... I'm not sure what would happen with that second pick.

"I would assume they would not take a quarterback, just because when you draft me, you better expect me to be here a long time."

Seems he was right. insider Jay Glazer is reporting that Saints sources told him this morning -- since they are no longer in need of a quarterback, they will now try to trade the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft. editor Mike Florio suggested the Saints could swap with the Jets, allowing them to get their pick of the rookie quarterbacks. But it's not clear that the Jets would draft a quarterback in round one, given their retention of Chad Pennington and the efforts to acquire Patrick Ramsey.

Other teams that might try to trade up include the Raiders, the Lions and the Vikings. ...

A few final notes here. ...

Brooks' future remains unclear, but local reports out of Oakland and Baltimore in recent weeks have indicated that both the Raiders and Ravens would be among those interested when he was released. ...

As for the Chargers. ... The "Phillip Rivers Era" has officially begun. Keep an eye on this space Sunday, when my Fantasy Notebook will examine Rivers' move into the starting lineup and the impact it might have on the rest of San Diego's offense.