How many times have you read in the past weeks that the Saints are in salary cap hell and would struggle to even retain their own free agents? However, this statement is not necessarily true, by any means. Sean Payton’s hands are not tied, thanks to the formidable GM Mickey Loomis. I will walk you through the steps the Saints will take until tomorrow to get under the cap and why the New Orleans Saints can spend big in free agency.
As of now, the Saints are $16.5 million over the cap, after Jairus Byrd’s “restructure” but not even counting the 4-year deal handed out to Mark Ingram. Assuming that contract counts two million against the cap, the Saints need to trim $18.5 million by the start of free agency. Even though the exact terms of Brodrick Bunkley’s and Marques Colston’s pay cuts were not disclosed yet, I expect both base salaries to be reduced by roughly three million each. Junior Galette’s roster bonus will be converted to a signing bonus to free up another $10 million in cap space, leaving the Saints at two and a half million over the cap. On top of that, Hawthorne and White should be outright released to save another $4.5 million in cap space. Doing the simple math, the Saints are already under the cap and even have two million in space left.
That is a horribly low amount for a team that wants to contend immediately with its signal caller on the wrong side of 35 years. To spend big in free agency , Jimmy Graham and Curtis Lofton will convert their roster bonuses into signing bonuses, thus expanding the Saints cap space to approximately $7.5 million. That number could be boasted to $8 million in case the Saints elect to convert Keenan Lewis’ roster bonus of $700,000 as well.
With roughly $8 million in cap space, a priority should be re-signing Tyrunn Walker to a 4-year deal that pays him a little over one million a year, Bryce Harris should stay on a veteran minimum deal. After those two transactions, the Saints still have got $6.5 million in cap space at their disposal. Bringing in a free agent cornerback is a MUST. The acquisition of an interior offensive lineman or a linebacker take a backseat. I am still somewhat uncertain which cover man the Black and Gold are eyeing, but the supply is low and the demand is high, luring teams into overpaying the likes of Byron Maxwell and Kareem Jackson.
Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) runs with the ball after catching a pass against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie (31) during the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 41-20. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Assuming the Saints remain confident that Stanley Jean-Baptiste is the long-term answer, bringing in a cornerback older than 30 years old makes sense. Tramon Williams and Antonio Cromartie are coming off very good seasons, looking to cash in one last time. A three-year deal worth up to $21 million is within the realm of possibilities. The 2015 cap hit could be kept as low as $3.5 million, given that the signing bonus is high and basically works as the salary of the first contract year (signing bonus $9 million, year 1 base salary of $500,000).
Thereafter, the Saints could try to sign Mason Foster or Bruce Carter to improve their linebacking corps to lesser deals, or even bring in Stefen Wisniewski to shore up the center position for years to come. The latter option would even allow the Saints to pressure the highly expensive guard combo of Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs into pay cuts, threatening to release them, and have Tim Lelito step in for either one. Drafting an offensive rookie in round two could lead to a similar scenario. As horrible as this approach seems from a moral standpoint, the Saints 2015 rookie class will account for a cap hit of a little over five million come mid-May.
Which free agent targets would you like the Saints to pursue? Sound off below!
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