Finally, let’s talk about some of my personal candidates for release, who seem like easy casualties.
After coming over to the New Orleans Saints from the Seattle Seahawks through free agency in 2012, Hawthorne got off to a dismal start. Hawthorne looked to turn the corner in 2013 with his improved play, and showed signs that he was a good fit alongside Curtis Lofton. However, Hawthorne has regressed for the most part in 2014. We’ll forever remember him for the three sack performance on Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Unfortunately, David Hawthorne has simply not lived up to the hype. Some may argue that there was little hype to begin with. Linebacker remains a great need for the Saints in 2015 with the potential exit of free agent Parys Haralson, and they should look to rebuild with younger, faster talent. The Saints need someone to lineup alongside Curtis Lofton that can excel in coverage, especially nickel situations. The team restructured Hawthorne’s deal last offseason, so he’ll still make out with some money regardless of what the Saints decide to do. They’d need to look towards the draft to fill the void
Brodrick Bunkley entered the Saints organization in 2012 after a brief one season stint with the Denver Broncos. He was heralded as one of Pro Football Focus’ best nose tackles. Bunkley would play in Steve Spagnoulo’s 4-3 scheme in 2012, and then move to a true nose tackle when Rob Ryan came on board in 2013. In three seasons, Bunkley has only managed ten more tackles (53) than he did in Denver (43) in one year.
For Bunkley, age and durability have caught up with the nose tackle. In three seasons, Bunkley has not played a full slew of 16 games for the black and gold. With younger options of John Jenkins and Lawrence Virgil handy, this seems like an easy decision. The Saints lose money on the release, but that cap figure isn’t the least bit appealing. His only hope is staying on for a very reduced pay-cut.
Another way the Saints can help their salary cap situation is by negotiating a deal with Cameron Jordan.
Jordan got better and better each season after bursting onto the scene in 2011. His sack totals went up each year, and his 12.5 sacks in 2013 was good for a Top 5 finish in the NFL, and a Pro Bowl spot. Unfortunately, Jordan didn’t have nearly a successful campaign this year, as he churned in 7.5 sacks in 2014. When you peel back the performance, his sacks came against the Vikings (1), Packers (2), Panthers (1), 49ers (1), Steelers (1), and Buccaneers (1.5).
The Saints gambled a bit on picking up a fifth-year option on Cam Jordan, but could you blame them given the Pro Bowl year he came off of? Jordan won’t be going anywhere, but after a disappointing season in 2014, look for the Saints to drastically reduce that nearly $7 million salary cap figure by leaps and bounds.
Other considerations for the Saints to help their salary cap situation could come in the way of restructures through players who may not have a large salary cap impact, but could help the team’s overall situation. Punter Thomas Morstead, a.k.a. ‘The Leg’ currently commands a $3.4 million cap figure in 2015, running back Pierre Thomas sits with a $2.56 million cap charge, and tight end Ben Watson has a $1.9 million cap charge.
If you’ve learned anything in the past decade of being a New Orleans Saints follower, supporter, or fan, it is simply this: Mickey Loomis makes it happen. He’s one of the best in the business to attack the situation, and will manage the cap accordingly. The Saints have a lot of money to dip into potentially for the 2017 season, but not as much in 2016 due to some of the other players previously mentioned.
We’ll find out in less than two weeks how the Saints work the 2015 salary cap, and ultimately find out who’s in and who’s out.