NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - It's simple math. The Saints are a projected $12-$15 million over the salary cap, and that's with 15 unrestricted free agents and a draft class to sign - and one of those UFA's is Jimmy Graham, who will command big bucks. Thus, they must shed payroll. To do that, they'll have to say goodbye to a few core veterans who've been the foundation of the team for the past eight years.
That's the cycle of life in the NFL. The Saints have done well to avoid wholesale roster changes, but this off season, tough cuts will be unavoidable. The Saints will likely try to do as much as they can to keep those cuts at a minimum, but not all will be back.
Today is the first day NFL teams can start to release players. Here are some cap-casualty possibilities for the Saints:
(All numerical data provided by spotrac and overthecap.com)
Cap Hit: $13.9 Million
Projected Savings $11.5 million
There is simply no way Smith will be back at this price tag in 2014.
Cap Hit: $5.8 million
Projected Savings: $2.1 million
Harper was banged up most of this year and with the emergence of Kenny Vaccaro, Harper's age, price tag and production may not mesh well for the Saints.
Cap Hit: $6.1 million
Projected Savings: $1.2 million
Rated my number one overpaid player on the Saints roster. Given what he gave the Saints defense combined with the emergence of the youth at defensive line last year, I'd put Bunkley on the cap casualty list. He can also be a restructure candidate as well.
Cap Hit: $5 million
Projected Savings: $2.5 million
Moore's production was down last year but he is also very reliable. Some have suggested that Kenny Stills is the heir-apparent to Moore. I disagree. To me they are two different players with different styles. Point being, I'm not sure Stills is the immediate successor to Moore's production. Just looking at the roster, Andy Tanner most closely resembles Moore than anyone else. It would just be a matter of if they thought Tanner is ready to come in and contribute now after three years in the system. Of course, they could also address this type of receiver in the draft or free agency at a cheaper price than they are paying Moore.
Cap Hit: $5.8 million
Projected Savings: $3.175 million
Tough call on Greer. On the down side, he'll be 32, coming off an ACL injury and carries a $5.8 million cap hit. But he's also a very good cover corner and more importantly not as easy to replace then some of the other positions.
Cap Hit: $4.25 million
Projected Savings: $ 3.5 million
Running backs that hit 30 are always vulnerable to becoming cap casualties. Sproles will be 31 and entering his tenth year in the NFL in 2014. However, despite his inconsistency flying under the radar at times, Sproles is too integral to the offense and is one Brees' favorite targets. He will back in 2014 for his last season as a Saint.
Cap Hit: $2.9 million
Projected Savings: $2.9 million
Thomas' cap charge is fairly high for a position that rotates four players thus his release/trade is always a possibility. Still, he is too valuable as a runner, receiver and blocker. For what he costs, Thomas should be back in 2014.
Cap Hit: $2.3 million
Projected Savings: $1.3 million
It's taken a while for Ingram to see the light but for the back half of the season he appeared to have figured it out. The Saints would save $1.3 million by releasing their former first rounder.
The Saints can also save a veteran or two if some others are willing to restructure their contracts to provide the Saints some cap relief.
Jahri Evans- Evans knows this drill. He's done it twice before. He can help his team out by doing it a third time this off season.
Keenan Lewis – Lewis loves it here in New Orleans and he's emerged as the team's top corner. By converting a portion of his base salary to signing bonus, he would be opening up a couple million of much-need dollars for his hometown team and giving himself a few more guaranteed dollars, which every NFL player covets.
Marques Colston- Colston will turn 31 before the 2014 season and is showing no signs of slowing down. His contract is also worded for a possible restructure. Colston did this last year and, if asked, would likely do it again. The only issue with Colston is the team would be adding guaranteed money to the back three years of a deal where Colston would be 32, 33, & 34 respectively.
Ben Grubbs- If you've read my blog over the last two years you know I'm not the biggest fan of Grubbs. I think he has been the most inconsistent player on the Saints' line. If it were up to me, I'd attempt to go younger and cheaper. But it's not. Thus, I don't see the Saints cutting ties with him but they could go the restructure route with his $6 million base salary.
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