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Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland, left walks with Saints executive vice president and general manager Mickey Loomis on the field before kickoff in an NFL divisional round playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, January 13, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.

The Saints don’t need to be wildly aggressive in free agency, but they should be at least a little active.

They’ve built a young core around Drew Brees that was good enough to win the Super Bowl, and this team could be right back there next year with just a little bit of tinkering this offseason. They don’t need to build through free agency or find big missing pieces. Those are already in place.

But that doesn’t mean New Orleans should be afraid of making a big move if it is the right one to make. It just needs to walk the line between now and later.

An eye needs to be on the future, of course. Antonio Brown’s new deal with the Raiders only means Michael Thomas is going to inch closer and closer to a $20 million deal when his contract expires next March. The Saints need to manage their roster in a way that allows them to retain the wide receiver and whatever other young players they deem worthy of retaining over the next few years.

The other eye needs to be on Brees and his age. Even if he plays until he’s 45 and spends all of those seasons in New Orleans, every year is going to be his last best shot. If the opportunity to sign an expensive player who fits the fabric of the team materializes, then general manager Mickey Loomis should capitalize on that opportunity to improve the roster if he believes it can help the organization win another title. That's the point of all of this, after all. 

With limited draft resources and a roster that could be strengthened, the Saints need to sign some free agents to plug some visible holes on both sides of the ball. This team can’t go into the season without another offensive weapon and some additional help on the defensive line. Failing to make the moves needed to take advantage of this window would be as irresponsible as being overly aggressive and assuring there is no way to retain the young core.

There is a world where the Saints can do both. They can sign some players, maybe even take a swing at difference-maker like Demario Davis and hope he doesn’t turn out to be a Kurt Coleman, and not mortgage the future. New Orleans could even dive a little deeper into the waters if it wants. A slight nudge toward trying to win now wouldn’t be terrible. These opportunities only come so often, unless you're the Patriots.

But the opportunity to build around a young core of players that has a handful of potential superstars is also a rare situation. So everything needs to be done with respect toward that, which will be somewhat difficult. New Orleans has limited resources and will need to rework some contracts to free up some wiggle room this offseason. That means pushing resources into the future, which is how this team has managed the cap the past several years.

It’s not an ideal approach. The cap management has caused more than a few people who study such things to post lengthy threads on Twitter about how irresponsible the Saints are being and that it is not a sustainable model. There is probably some truth to that, and drafting players (read: cheap talent) like Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, Sheldon Rankins, Marcus Williams, Ryan Ramczyk and Alvin Kamara the past few years has no doubt helped disguise some of the woes.

Ideally, in time, those players will become the ones with expensive contracts, a young quarterback on a rookie contract will take the helm, and the window extends. Spending big money on free agents who might not be worth their commitments in the second half of the deal pushes you a step away from that goal.

But the Saints also have a way of managing the cap so that they fit everything they want within it. Fighting the logic of the approach after all of these years is pointless. At some point, they’ll want to stop kicking the can down the road, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop as long as things don't get too out of control.

The goal is to go for it right now while also being responsible about the future. Both can be done as long as New Orleans doesn’t take multiple massive swings and bury itself under the weight of a bunch of bad contracts.

But that shouldn’t be a big concern. This roster has too much talent for the team to do such things.


Follow Nick Underhill on Twitter, @nick_underhill.​