Armstead Restructures Contract, Clearing Way For Butler?
By Ty Anania
The New Orleans Saints aren’t done yet, folks.
They’ve just restructured Terron Armstead’s contract. And if this is any indication that the Saints are ready to make a move for Malcolm Butler, there may be more restructures coming.
Restructuring Armstead’s contract frees up about $4M in 2017 cap space. His cap hit for 2017 is now $7.5M, and will peak at $15M in 2019 and 2020. You can find a full breakdown of this contract details here.
That leaves the Saints with north of $9.9M in space for 2017. That’s not counting the $7.6M their due when Jairus Byrd’s release hits the books. Together, that makes $17.5M.
In a vacuum, that is more than enough room for the Saints to make a major move.
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But Sterling Moore and Manti Te’o’s contracts have not hit the books yet. The Saints haven’t released Moore’s contract details, but Te’o is set to count a bit over $2M in 2017. Assuming Moore’s cap hit is somewhere around there, the Saints have about $13M left, a bit over $5M before the Byrd release.
And then there are the rookie contracts.
Final contracts for the 2017 rookies are, at this point, nothing more than projections. Every team has different selections that, especially in the first round, vary widely in their cap hits. And if the Saints do trade for Malcolm Butler, it would likely come at the cost of one or more of their picks.
Teams are setting aside between $5M and $7M for their rookie deals. At this point, the Saints would be far at the high end of this difference. They have seven picks, but five of them are in the first three rounds. So let’s say $7M for their rookie deals. At this point it would likely be even more than that, but chances are that they would have to give up one or more picks for Butler.
Rookie contract cap hits can come directly out of the $7.6M due to the Saints for Byrd’s release. That would leave somewhere around $5.5M in space for 2017.
Reports are that Malcolm Butler wants top dollar in his next contract. And the Saints appear willing to pay that.
Top dollar for a cornerback—Stephon Gilmore money, which some reports say Butler wants—is somewhere around $13M annually. The Saints don’t currently have the cap space to afford that.
But then there’s Mickey Loomis, the ever-creative cap guru. Mickey and the Saints can structure Butler’s contract in such a way that he fits under the cap in 2017 and still gets the sort of money he wants. But that wouldn’t leave the Saints much wiggle room through the rest of the offseason. And they like to have a certain amount of cap space free even throughout the season to accommodate waiver-wire scoops and injury replacement signings.
All that considered, I’d say the Saints will look to restructure at least one more contract before the offseason’s up. Max Unger and Thomas Morstead are both prime candidates for restructuring. Unger, like Armstead, could have his roster bonus converted to a signing bonus. And Morstead could be due for an extension.
Either way, the Armstead restructure seems to herald the next big move for the Saints this offseason. And with not much left on the board in free agency, I’d say all signs point towards Butler.
Next: Evaluating the NFC South's Offseason
More moves will come before or after a trade. But hopefully this means that the wait is almost over. Hopefully.