Saints should wrap up Drew Brees deal, get tight end in free agency

The Saints have made it clear they intend to go year to year with Drew Brees, but it's a bit puzzling why reaching a deal for next season has taken so long. Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

Here are the moves the New Orleans Saints should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday:

Re-sign Drew Brees ASAP: For a deal that was supposed to come together easily, Brees and the Saints sure are cutting it close. If Brees doesn't sign a new contract by Wednesday, then $18 million in dead money from his old deal will hit the Saints' books. They almost certainly will avoid that scenario with a new deal that pays Brees handsomely -- but only includes about one year's worth of guaranteed money, since the Saints have made it clear they want to take things year by year with his contract now that he is 39. It doesn't make much sense that they waited this long to do an inevitable contract, but deadlines usually dictate the timetable on things like this.

Give Brees a tight end to throw to: Maybe even a reunion with his old go-to guy Jimmy Graham? The Saints' big-money deal with tight end Coby Fleener in 2016 has not panned out, so they'll need to make another big investment in the position in either free agency or the draft. New Orleans still had the No. 2 offense in the NFL last season, but it finished last in tight end receiving yardage. That was a big reason why the Saints finished a stunning 19th in third-down conversion percentage after routinely leading the league in that category over the past decade. If the Saints don't bring back Graham, perhaps they'll consider Philadelphia's Trey Burton, Cincinnati's Tyler Eifert or a trade for Detroit's Eric Ebron among other options.

Add someone dynamic in the front seven: This wouldn't be as big of a priority if defensive end Alex Okafor and rookie outside linebacker Alex Anzalone had stayed healthy last year (not to mention pass-rushing tackle Nick Fairley, who may never play again because of a heart condition). The Saints likely will re-sign Okafor and hope he can return to form after a torn Achilles. And they'll hope that Anzalone finally can put his nagging shoulder issues behind him. But they need to add depth at both spots to make sure they'll have enough dynamic playmakers to get through the season. The Saints probably will have to go bargain shopping at DE, where pickings are somewhat slim. But they could consider making a splash at linebacker with someone like Philadelphia's Nigel Bradham or Detroit's Tahir Whitehead.

Try to keep Senio Kelemete: If there was such a thing as the "sixth man" of the year in the NFL, Kelemete would have been a leading candidate in 2017, since he wound up starting nine games (including playoffs) for one of the league's best offensive lines. The Saints trust Kelemete to fill in at both guard spots, both tackle spots and center when needed, which makes him as valuable as any backup in the league. The problem is that another team might offer him a full-time starting gig and starter's money this year, which probably would force the Saints to find two cheaper guys to try to replace him.