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Saints, Brees agree on six-year deal

NEW ORLEANS (March 14, 2006) -- Free-agent quarterback Drew Brees agreed to a six-year contract with New Orleans, providing the Saints with a proven replacement for Aaron Brooks.

The deal went through as the Miami Dolphins, who also had been courting Brees, traded for Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

Brees is a bit of question mark after injuring his throwing shoulder with San Diego in the final game of the season. He underwent surgery and said last weekend he will take four or five months to be ready.

That could account for the terms of the contract, which guarantees money only in the first year.

"Drew was sufficiently impressed with the organization and the head coach in New Orleans," said Brees' agent, Tom Condon, referring to the Saints' new coach, Sean Payton. "New Orleans was also very comfortable with the risk-reward, based on his rehabilitation from the injury, and Miami didn't have that same level of comfort, so New Orleans made a lot of sense for us."

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis met briefly with reporters at the Saints' suburban training facility, but declined to take questions, saying he preferred to wait until a media conference scheduled March 15 with Brees and Payton.

"I'm just here to confirm we have an agreement in principle with Drew to become a New Orleans Saint," Loomis said. "We're real excited about that."

Brooks is expected to be released by New Orleans after his worst season since taking over as the Saints starter after Jeff Blake's injury during the 2000 season. Loomis said last week that the Saints were ready to "move on" at quarterback and that Brooks likely would be playing elsewhere next season.

With Brees as their starting quarterback, the pressure is off the Saints to use the No. 2 choice in the draft on Southern California's Matt Leinart, who is expected to be available with Reggie Bush the likely No. 1 selection by Houston.

New Orleans -- which has lost top center LeCharles Bentley, defensive end Darren Howard, linebacker Sedrick Hodge and cornerback Fakhir Brown to free agency -- could choose another player or dangle their pick as trade bait for teams who covet the opportunity to take Leinart, the 2004 Heisman winner.

Loomis declined to discuss the rationale behind the structure of Brees' new contract or how it might affect the Saints' draft plans.

Brees, who turned 27 in January, has spent his entire five-year career with the San Diego Chargers. He passed for more than 3,000 yards in three of the past four seasons. He led the Chargers to a playoff appearance in 2004.

The 32nd overall pick in the 2001 draft, Brees struggled in his first few seasons, which led the Chargers to trade Eli Manning to the New York Giants for quarterback Philip Rivers on the day of the 2004 draft.

Rivers spent the past two seasons on the bench as Brees flourished and won 20 games with the Chargers.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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