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Will Drew Brees stay with the Saints?

After a heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL playoffs, the New Orleans Saints will have plenty of questions to answer in the offseason.

With his 2017 season, his contract fulfilled, and the team having no ability to tag him, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has his first crack at the open market since arriving in New Orleans a dozen years ago. So what will he do?

The Saints have exclusive negotiating rights through the launch of the two-day legal tampering period in March, and it’s possible that the two sides will work out a new deal sooner than later. But he has the right, if he so chooses, to sign with any other team he wants.

It’s almost impossible to imagine him in another helmet, even though he spent five seasons wearing a lightning bolt in lieu of fleur-de-lis. It’s also hard to envision a better chance for him to cement his Hall of Fame credentials elsewhere, giving the glut of talented young players who will help the Saints continued to contend, well into the future.

Regardless of whether he signs a new deal, his now-expired contract will count $18 million against the 2018 cap. This means that the cap charge associated with the first year of his next contract, if there is one, will only add to it.

Brees has earned countless millions, but he always has been a savvy businessman, far closer to Peyton Manning than Tom Brady when it comes to getting full value. Still, as Nrees turns 39 on Monday, team and player may disagree on what his actual value is.

If the Saints can’t or won’t come close to paying him accordingly, attractive alternative options include the Broncos, who need not only a quarterback but also a leader who can bring the locker room together and hold players on both sides of the ball accountable, the way Peyton Manning did. Few current NFL quarterbacks have that power -- Brees is one of them.

However it plays out, the next couple of months could get very interesting for Brees, the Saints, and whichever other team may be willing to give him significantly more than the Saints are willing to offer. Before Brees agrees to any new deal with the Saints, he’ll surely know what may be lurking behind Door No. 2 in what would be his third NFL city.