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Brees is now expecting to be paid in the range of the league’s best quarterbacks, and Peyton Manning, who is three years older than Brees and sat out last season while recovering from neck surgery, recently signed a contract with Denver paying him $19.2 million a year.

Brees has until July 16 to agree to a new long-term deal. Otherwise he will have to either play under the franchise tag that would pay him a little more than $16 million for one season, or sit out.

Getting Brees back with the team would help restore a sense of normalcy after an offseason plagued by the NFL’s bounty scandal, which resulted in the season-long suspensions of head coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, among other sanctions.

So far, Chase Daniel has worked as the No. 1 quarterback during six voluntary offseason practices and this week’s three-day minicamp that ended Thursday. The Saints also gave veteran Luke McCown a tryout during minicamp and decided on Thursday to sign him as well, meaning he’ll likely be back for next week’s offseason practices and possibly training camp.

Saints players and coaches have said it is odd not having Brees around, but added that they are confident his absence won’t unduly hurt the team as long as he’s back by training camp.

Assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who has been tapped to handle head coaching duties this season, except while serving his own six-game suspension resulting from the bounty probe, said he has been talking with Brees regularly and asking the quarterback for input on training camp, which opens in late July.

“Nobody is going to come in better shape than Drew,” Vitt said earlier this week. “Drew is working extremely hard right now. He’s mastered the system. (Brees‘ contract) will get done with both parties getting together. … They are both working hard at it.”

Notes: The Saints also signed running back Joe Banyard after the completion of minicamp. Like McCown, Banyard was with the Saints on a three-day tryout this week. … Starting RT Zach Strief wound sat out a fourth-straight practice on Thursday after rolling his right ankle in the opening practice of minicamp. He said the injury is minor, that he rested as a precaution, and that he expects to practice next week. … RB Chris Ivory sat out a second straight day with what Vitt has said is a minor hamstring pull. … The Saints announced that they will hold training camp, as usual, at their suburban New Orleans headquarters and that it will open on July 27.