The New Orleans Saints have 26 different players heading to free agency this offseason, and it would be practically impossible to bring them all back next year. Like every year, the team will have to prioritize which free agents make the best fit for the team moving forward based on the cost of their contract. But for 2018, here are 5 Pending Free Agents the New Orleans Saints Should Bring Back for 2018.
He’s technically a free agent, but everyone in the NFL believes Drew will return to the New Orleans Saints in 2018, and for good reason. The Saints don’t have a viable replacement for their franchise QB waiting in the wings, and both the organization and QB have expressed an absolute certainty that the two will remain paired next season. To what dollar amount it takes to keep Drew in New Orleans has yet to be determined, but it will get done regardless. While there were moments during the 2017 where Drew’s arm strength seemed to be a shell of what it once was, there moments were heavily outweighed by the feats of brilliance the veteran QB showed slinging the ball up and down the field.
Unlike Brees, Senio Kelemete still has much of the prime of his football career ahead of him at only 27 years old. He came into the 2017 season without a starting spot on the New Orleans offensive line, but played starter’s snaps over the course of the season with injuries to Zach Strief, Terron Armstead, Larry Warford and Andrus Peat all at various points of the season. Kelemete filled in at Guard and Tackle and was always ready when he got the call to be pressed into action. Unfortunately, his superb play as a back-up in 2017 has likely led to a big payday for Kelemete and a guaranteed starter’s role for a different team in 2018, but if he’d be willing to come back to New Orleans, the team would be lucky to have him. Strief could retire, Armstead is hurt at least once a year, and Peat is coming off a broken leg. Kelemete could be an answer to what is otherwise a bunch of question marks for the Saints offensive line.
Okafor is another pending free agent for New Orleans that still has plenty of years left in his career. The question with Okafor, however, is just how many of those years will be healthy and productive? Okafor has yet to play a full 16-game season, but even in his 10 games with New Orleans in 2017, he finished with 4.5 sacks, 3 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles. If the Saints are able to get him on a relatively cheap deal because of his injury history, and if they are able to acquire further depth at Defensive End, Okafor would be a solid piece to rush the passer opposite Cam Jordan.
Willie Snead or Brandon Coleman
I fully expect the Saints to address the WR position in this year’s offseason, whether it be via the 2018 NFL Draft or free agency. I’m also unsure of the longterm roles of Austin Carr and Taysom Hill on this Saints team moving forward. With all of that taken into consideration, I firmly believe that we’ll only see - at most - only one of Willie Snead or Brandon Coleman return to the team next year. Snead had successive productive years with the Saints in 2015 and 2016, averaging over 900 yards over the course of the two seasons and posting an exceptional catch rate. Then he fell off the Earth in 2017 after a suspension for a DUI and injuries hampered his momentum heading into the season.
Brandon Coleman, on the other hand, is the perennial “This could be the year he becomes a superstar” player for the Saints. He’s never been a key cog in the New Orleans offense and has totaled just over 1,000 yards in his three seasons in New Orleans, but he has the height and size you’d like to see out of a potential #1 WR, let alone what would equate to a #3 or #4 in this system. Both Snead and Coleman are Restricted Free Agents, meaning the Saints have the opportunity match any contract offer extended to them from another team. Personally, I have little preference between the two and would just bring the guy back who is cheapest to retain.
Breaux is another Restricted Free Agent, and that’s part of the rationale that puts him on this list. Kenny Vaccaro, Zach Line, and Michael Mauti were all close to making the list at #5, but I could see arguments that their cost in free agency might not be worth their level of production for the Saints. Breaux was only recently medically cleared to return to football activities, and if he could be as productive as he was to finish the 2016 season, bringing Breaux back to play opposite Marshon Lattimore as the CB2 and shifting Ken Crawley to the slot could be a big upgrade for the team.