At 37, Drew Brees' hairline receded and many of his most beloved teammates are gone since the last time he was playing for a new contract.
Brees and the New Orleans Saints are actively discussing a new contract with the final year of his five-year, $100 million deal expiring at the end of the 2016 season.
"I've been through that a few times, so you know that (the contract extension) will happen when it's supposed to happen," Brees said Tuesday in an interview with USA Today. "There's so much that goes into an offseason -- you're signing free agents, you're signing rookies, you're going through the draft process. Now as we get ready for training camp, I obviously, I see myself in New Orleans for the rest of my career."
Shifting into prove-it mode is the preferred approach for Brees, who scoffed at the idea of the Saints considering a quarterback in the first round when Memphis junior Paxton Lynch was scheduled to visit the team's Metairie, La., facility.
"I feel like I've got quite a few good years left," Brees said. "I got one year left on the contract, but whether you have a one-year contract or a five-year contract, you've still got to prove it every year ... even if you're locked into a long-term deal, they can get rid of you at any time, so that's my mindset."
Brees missed his first game in five seasons in 2015 but completed 68.3 percent of his 428 passes with 32 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and 4,870 passing yard, keeping his average during the lifetime of his current deal with the Saints over 5,000 yards and 37 touchdowns per season.
The two sides are discussing a four-year extension, according to reports, that would keep Brees among the top-paid players at his position. Whether he will consider a discount for the team already in $160 million guaranteed over the past nine years is uncertain, but Brees has been unapologetic about setting his self-worth high, even at the cost of losing top targets such as tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Marques Colston in salary dumps.
Brees can draw on experience in that regard, as a former second-round pick who watched his initial NFL employer, the San Diego Chargers, bring in first-round pick Philip Rivers in 2004. After holding off Rivers, Brees injured his shoulder and opted to sign a six-year, $60 deal with the Saints in March 2006, eschewing a five-year, $50 million offer from the Saints that was greatly frontloaded and smelled of a short-term fix.
"Once the season rolls around, I just want to focus on football. And I handled it that way back in 2011 -- the exact same way," Brees said. "So I plan on handling it the exact same way this time around."