No one asked, but if given a chance to make 10 personnel/roster moves for New Orleans Saints officials during the offseason, here they are:
It begins in the front office.
1. Kick current executive VP/GM Mickey Loomis upstairs and promote current assistant GM/director of college scouting Jeff Ireland to head up football operations. Ireland played an integral role in compiling one of the top NFL draft classes in recent memory, including CB Marshon Lattimore, T Ryan Ramczyk, S Marcus Williams, RB Alvin Kamara and LB Alex Anzalone, DE Trey Fredrickson and DE Al-Quadin Muhammad.
Ireland seems to have righted the team’s listing ship when it came to the draft.
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2. Re-sign QB Drew Brees before the start of free agency March 14. By doing so before the deadline, the Saints will save $18 million in potential dead money counting against the salary cap.
Brees will command a boatload of guaranteed money, upward of $50 million. Look for officials to spread out the signing bonus over an extended period, but the contract will be the equivalent of a two-year pact masquerading as a five-year deal.
Brees wants to play into his 40s and here’s his opportunity. He continues to play at an elite level and remains the face of the franchise at age 39. He played all but five snaps last season and leads the NFL in snaps played the last five seasons.
3. Make a strong play to bring back TE Jimmy Graham, a free agent who probably would love being reunited with Brees. Look for this Jimmy G to command mega-interest in free agency so that likely will drive him out of the Saints’ price range. You never know: He might take a former hometown discount to work again with Brees and Sean Payton
4. Pick the right time to cut TE Coby Fleener in order to maximize the most cap savings. He has not delivered on a five-year, $36 million deal originally signed in 2016. He is scheduled to count $8 million against this year’s cap.
Cut your losses.
5. Let free agent S Kenny Vaccaro test free agency and, if necessary, re-sign him at modest numbers. Do not overpay him. We’ve seen his best.
6. Make re-signing versatile OL Senio Kelemete is a priority. He’d be foolish not to test free agency and seek a starting job for more money. He proved to be a valuable asset last season as an injury replacement and team officials need to massage his ego and pay him accordingly.
He’s a keeper.
7. Bring back CB Delvin Breaux, a restricted free agent and a potential starter when healthy who has battled injuries the past two seasons. One can never have enough good corners.
8. Re-sign veteran free agent DE Alex Okafor to an incentive-laden contract with nominal guaranteed money. He played well before tearing his Achilles tendon and ending his season before the playoffs.
9. Pursue a second-tier pass rusher in free agency as a complement to Pro Bowl DE Cam Jordan who turned in a monster season in 2017.
10 (a). My draft wants are: WR, pass rusher, LB, O-line depth and TE.
10 (b). I have a soft place in my heart for veteran T Zach Strief. If he wants to fore go retirement at age 34 after coming off knee surgery, I would give him every opportunity to win a job and at the very least keep him around the team in some sort of coaching role or advisory position.
If Saints officials follow my off-season blueprint for success, they’ll be playing for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.
What say you?
P.S. I’m not too concerned about finding the heir apparent to Brees this offseason because I want to take a hard look at promising Taysom Hill, the former BYU QB who’s playing under his rookie contract through 2020 that he signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2017.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to acquire, say, the next Tom Brady. But it’s not a priority.