I think by now everyone is well aware of the restructures the New Orleans Saints have carried out over the last few days. If not you can check out these blog postings by ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas and NOLA.com’s Mike Triplett. The bottom line is that in the past few days the Saints have restructured the contract of LB Curtis Lofton, LB David Hawthorne, G Jahri Evans, G Ben Grubbs, and WR Marques Colston, four of whom just signed new contracts in 2012. The moves saved the team $14,470,000 and even still the team remains about $5 million over the salary cap, not exactly a stellar position for a team that did not even make the playoffs last season.
But moreso than the current years cap predicament is what the Saints are doing to their future salary cap.The Saints have added $4,490,000 to next years salary cap and the same $14.47 million in additional dead money to all of those restructured contracts. During the 2014 season Grubbs, Evans, and Colston will all be over 30 and each will carry dead money charges of at least $8.5 million making them virtually uncuttable while accounting for $28.4 million in cap charges.
I currently have the Saints 2014 salary cap estimated to be $126.36 million for just 39 players under contract. Assuming their 5 draft choices all make the team that will bump that figure to about $130.8 million for 44 players, still 9 short of a full roster. And it could get worse. Because the Saints are still over the 2013 salary cap it means they will need to restructure more contracts to get under this years salary cap. All that is doing is throwing more money onto the 2014 salary cap. The Saints are going to ask DE Will Smith to restructure but there is no way that the team can survive unless he just accepts a paycut with no future money being prorated. Putting more money into 2014 is just dangerous.
Assuming the Saints cut Roman Harper this season and get Smith to agree to a paycut and then release him in 2014 they would shave $19.45 million off the cap figure bringing them down to $111.5 million spent on 42 players. Beyond those two the largest cap savings that can be found on a current player in 2014 would be $3.5 million gained by releasing RB Darren Sproles, so there are limited avenues for relief. Keep in mind that TE Jimmy Graham is going to be a free agent in 2014 as well and cost a pretty penny to keep a Saint.
Restructuring Drew Brees is a possibility next year but he already has a cap charge of $26.4 million in 2015, a year in which the Saints already have $97.5 million on the books for just 17 players. While that is far away and plenty of moves will be made to bring the number lower the moves the team is making today are negatively impacting the dead money that will be associated with these moves. Players like Evans, Grubbs, and Colston will now account for $16.4 in dead money compared to just $10.92 million as of yesterday.
So the Saints decisions to try to keep this team together for another run at a title can have devastating long term consequences on the teams future if they do not carefully navigate their contracts from here on out. If they don’t win this year it could be a very difficult roster turnover where you have Brees and little else. Its a messy situation that could prove difficult to get out of.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.