While the news is swamped with the demise of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan this week, the bigger problem for the New Orleans Saints is coming after the season is over. The numbers for the 2016 salary cap are simply scary. The organization is well aware of what’s coming in the offseason. The fact of the matter is, the numbers are simply an accounting nightmare for whoever is in charge of setting the roster for next year. Let me explain in detail.
To make it clear for the daily fan, the NFL in 2015 had a salary cap of a little over $140 million for all teams. I would imagine that in 2016 that number could balloon to nearly $150 million or more. The New Orleans Saints, as of right now, without making any changes or restructuring, would be at about $157 million. In the literal sense, the Saints have already exceeded the cap most likely for next year. Although we don’t know what the max cap will be, New Orleans has a huge problem on its hands.
I want to break a few things down so I can show you how things got muddy for next year. First of all, there is the dead cap money. The dead cap is pretty much that dead money. In other words, it means giving money to players who are no longer in New Orleans. Junior Gallette will be sent a nice $12 million and change next year for doing absolutely nothing for the Saints. You can debate that decision to let him go or not. Regardless, that check will be sent out to the former belt-whipping pass rusher.
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There are others who the team owes money to, but thankfully it only adds up to an additional $2.8 million. So before the Saints even start paying the current players on their roster, they give up $15 million. Let’s just guesstimate that the cap will be $150 million, which means they’ll have $135 million left.
The next hit is a little bit more painful to swallow. There are seven guys who will make over $6,000,000 next year, which include quarterback Drew Brees, defensive end Cam Jordan, safety Jairus Byrd, guard Jahri Evans, center Max Unger, as well as cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner. Let’s call this group the 80-million dollar group, because if you add these contracts up, it gets awfully close to $80,000,000. So lets do the math: 135 minus 80 equals $55 million left to pay for the rest of the active roster.
I want to stop there for a second. There is a big elephant in the room that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. You may have heard of him, Drew Brees? The team will take a cap hit of $30 million next year from him. Now these numbers will likely change, as plenty of restructuring is going happen.
The real question is, when do the New Orleans Saints want to address Drew’s future? This debate will undoubtedly be coming soon as to how or if the club keeps Drew Brees, and for how long. I think it would be in the Saints’ best interest to not wait too long, regardless of what they decide. The reason being is that if they decide to part ways with Brees, you better do it while he’s of value. If the Saints wait too long and Brees starts to decline rapidly, then they will not get equivalent value in return.
Furthermore, if the Saints decide to keep Brees for 2-3 more years, then the organization needs to decide on a number, so they can move forward with a plan. It’s no secret that New Orleans needs some serious help on defense. It will be in the Saints’ best interest to have that number out of the way before they even get into which guys they want to bring back for next season. So, let’s move on to free agency.
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In 2016, the Saints will have almost 20 free agents. Of course, there is no way they’ll keep all of them, and that’s for certain. There is almost $15 million there if the salaries were to be paid the exact amount. The bigger problem is the Saints are all ready at the cap when free agency begins. I have a feeling that the rejuvenated 34-year-old tight end Ben Watson may fall victim to the cap just because there is no room.
The situation, at this point, is so convoluted that it will take months of number crunching and evaluations to find out how New Orleans will look before and after the draft. We have not even gone into where the team will need help in the draft, and whether or not they can even afford to sign any top-tier free agents when that time comes.
Here is my advice — pray long and hard. After that, it would be a good idea to start rookie quarterback Garrett Grayson once the Saints are eliminated from playoff contention to see if this guy is even an option for the future. Grayson is signed through the 2018 season at a mere $1 million and under contract. Perhaps the Saints can also get a little action from newly signed backup Matt Flynn. I’m guessing this is common sense, but why put Drew Brees out there with a chance of risking an injury when the team is already mathematically eliminated from the postseason?
The real question is, can the New Orleans Saints go on a six-game winning streak? The answer is not likely, but anything is possible on any given Sunday. Also, with the NFC being tough this year, a 10-6 record may still not be enough to get into the playoffs. I’m a firm believer in 100% effort until the season is over — the fans deserve it as well. The only problem is that by winning, the Saints may actually be losing long-term. We can only hope that we’ll know sooner rather than later about how the Black and Gold will decide to move forward, as waiting is actually going to be detrimental to an already struggling team.