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Zulgad: It’s a long shot but Vikings make the right call by dialing up Drew Brees

The Vikings threw the free-agency version of a Hail Mary pass on Monday when they reportedly reached out to the agent for quarterback Drew Brees.

It’s a long shot that Brees is going to leave his longtime employer, the New Orleans Saints, for the Vikings or any of the other team that used the opening of the NFL’s legal tampering period to contact agent Tom Condon.

It also doesn’t mean the Vikings aren’t going to sign Kirk Cousins when free agency officially opens at 3 p.m. Wednesday. But the Vikings would be doing themselves a disservice if they did not at least check on the Hall of Fame bound Brees, who remains one of the NFL’s best.

Yes, Brees is 39 years old and entering his 18th NFL season, but as long as the Saints haven’t signed him to a contract extension, he remains an intriguing option for a team coming off a 13-3 season and with a roster that appears ready made to make a Super Bowl run.

The Saints, whose season came to an end with a devastating loss to the Vikings in the NFC divisional round, were 11-5 finish in 2017 and won the NFC South. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton both have expressed confidence that Brees will return for a 13th season in New Orleans, and even Brees said he would stay with the Saints “as long as they’ll have me,” after the last-second loss to the Vikings on Jan. 14.

The Vikings appear prepared to pay Cousins at least $27 million per season on a three-year contract and, if some reports are to be believed, much, if not all, will be guaranteed.

Cousins, who will turn 30 on Aug. 19, will get this type of money because it’s a rarity that a quarterback of his quality hits the free-agent market. The Vikings, Jets and Cardinals are expected to be among the teams making bids for him. They will do so based on what he has done in Washington and because the feeling is he will continue to improve and become a franchise quarterback.

That’s why Brees is so intriguing.

He already is a franchise quarterback and last season he did not show any real signs of decline. Brees led the NFL in completions (386), completion percentage (72.0) and yards per attempt (8.1). His 4,334 yards passing marked his lowest total since joining the Saints in 2006, but that was because New Orleans relied so heavily on running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Brees is surgical in his ability to throw the ball down the field and would have plenty of weapons in Minnesota with guys like Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook and Kyle Rudolph.

The tough part would be convincing Brees to leave New Orleans.

Mike Triplette, who covers the Saints for ESPN, reported that Brees’ contract talks with the Saints likely would pick up steam on Monday morning. Triplette wrote that he expects Brees to be paid among the top players in the game – he threw out a figure of $25-million plus – and that in return the veteran will agree to have only about one-year fully guaranteed.

The Saints are going to be in a hurry to get this done before Wednesday because if Brees remains unsigned $18 million in dead money from his previous contract will start counting against New Orleans’ 2018 salary cap.

It’s worth noting that Brees and the Saints have done this dance before and that Brees’ contract extensions with the team often have been agreed to at the last minute. In 2012, Brees was signed days before the franchise-tag deadline and in 2016 he signed days before the regular season opened.

The Vikings only chance to get Brees would be to give him something to think about and that would mean a contract that carried a staggering dollar amount and was probably for at least two seasons. That offer almost certainly would have to exceed what Cousins would be seeking.

But would paying Brees an enormous amount for two seasons bother you if you thought it gave the Vikings their best chance to finally win a Super Bowl?

Whether Brees would accept any type of deal to wear purple remains to be seen, but it certainly was worth making the phone call to find out.





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