Drew Brees is the first domino that has to fall for Saints

The clock is ticking for the New Orleans Saints to get a deal done with Drew Brees and there is much more at stake than simply re-signing the franchise quarterback, arguably the greatest player in the history of the organization.

The Saints are up against it because they’ve got a host of other key free agents to consider. But it all starts with Brees. The deadline to use the franchise tag is approaching – March 5 – and if the club cannot broker a long-term extension with Brees before then, it will likely have to use the franchise tag to lock him up while the sides negotiate further.

Doing that would make it increasingly more difficult for the Saints to make moves to secure the futures of guard Carl Nicks, wide receiver Marques Colston and cornerback Tracy Porter. Not only is Brees the biggest domino – he is the one that has to fall first.

With free agency looming March 13, it’s time for the Saints to make something happen. Brees remains optimistic according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, make that “very optimistic.”

"There's no doubt in my mind we'll get a deal done," Brees said.

He said a meeting should take place at the NFL Scouting Combine between his agent Tom Condon and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis.

“I wouldn't say we're 'very far' apart. I think there's been progress made," Brees said. "But just like everything it's a process. It takes time. It's not something that happens overnight."

The 33-year-old Brees is going to receive a massive deal and should certainly be paid more than Michael Vick. Whether he is the highest-paid quarterback, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for him.

“I'm really not thinking about that at this point. I'm really just thinking about my career in New Orleans, with this team, this city, this organization,” he said. “Also as I look to the future of our team, it's important for everything to come together the way we want it to."

Brees knows his situation is linked to the other players. We’ll see if business is done in timely fashion.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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