NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Are the Saints in salary cap hell? Not according to the numbers I've looked at. A projected $20 million over the cap sounds bad but it's not nearly as ugly it's been reported to be.
Yes, the Saints have work to do, but it's very manageable. Plus, it's nothing they hadn't done before.
I. Pay Cuts
2015 Cap Number: $9.7 M
What a tough year for one of the franchise's all-time greats. Colston admitted that he was part of the problem this year. Indeed 'Quiet Storm' had as many drops as I can ever remember in 2014.
Bringing back Colston at a $9.7 million cap hit simply cannot and will not happen. But in Colston's case, a pay cut may be an option. Of all the players they could ask, Colston seems like a guy that would be reasonable given he likely wouldn't make that much on the open market.
Cap savings: $3-5 M
2015 Cap Number: $11 M
Jahri Evans is not the player he once was when he signed what was then the highest contract for a guard. The problem is he is still paid that way. His $11 million cap hit is too rich for the Saints blood given his lack of production in 2014.
However, Evans is a well-respected locker room guy and the organization learned last year those kinds of guys aren't as easy to replace as they may have thought. So while I can see the rationale in cutting him, I think Evans survives one more year. Restructuring is certainly a possibility but with only two years left on his contract there isn't enough time to spread out the hit of the converted bonus. Thus, the easiest thing to do would be for Evans to take a straight pay cut. However, unlike Colston, Evans has a bit more bargaining power since he is coming off a Pro Bowl season. If the two sides can't work out a deal they can restructure or release. Ultimately, I think he stays with a moderate cut in pay.
Cap Savings: $3 M
2015: Cap Number: $9.6 M
Of the Evans, Jonathan Goodwin and Ben Grubbs trio along the Saints offensive line, two of them has to go. As I explained above, I believe Evans will be back, but I think the end of the road has come for Ben Grubbs in a Saints uniform. His cap hit is high and his production is not.
Cap Savings: $3.6 M
2015 Cap Number: $6 M
I thought Hawthorne had his best year as a Saint and I think the coaches like him. But the front office likely doesn't like his higher cap number. Though his production is nice, the Saints can find younger and cheaper at linebacker.
Cap Savings: $2.9 M
2015 Cap Number: $6.1 M
Too easy. Bunkley rarely played on a unit that was horribly inconsistent this year and finished the year on injured reserve. It's time to move on from Bunkley.
Cap Savings: $2.8 Million
2015 Cap Number: $15.45 M
The biggest cap space can be gained by a very simple maneuver with Junior Galette's contract. Galette is due a $12.5 million roster bonus on the first day of the new league year. By converting that to a signing bonus, the Saints will gain $10 million in cap space. This will add an additional $3 million in cap charges in the final four years of the contract.
Projected Move: Restructure contract
Cap Savings: $10 Million
2015 Cap Number: $11 M
Similar to Galette above, the Saints structured Graham's contract with a roster bonus at the beginning of the 2015 league year. By converting that to a signing bonus they will create $3.3 million in cap space. They could create even more if they convert part of his base salary to a signing bonus as well but for the purposes of this article, we'll just stick with the roster bonus.
Cap Savings: $3.3 M
2015 Cap Number: $9 M
A better Saints season and Lofton is in the Pro Bowl in 2014. He was the most consistent player on the entire roster this year. He will definitely be next season and can help the Saints even more by converting his $4.5 million roster bonus into a signing bonus and give the Saints an extra $3 million in cap space.
Cap savings: $3M
2015 Cap Number: $10.3 M
Byrd is the last of the high roster bonus players that can easily be converted to a signing bonus. His roster bonus is $6 million by doing a similar conversion; the Saints will save $4.8 million in cap space.
Projected Move: Restructure
Cap Savings: $4.8 M
The final tally with this example is two pay cuts, three releases and four restructure. Add it all up and it would shed $36.4 million in cap charges which would put the Saints roughly $16 million under the salary cap.
You'll notice that one pretty big name is left out. I'll have an article on Drew Brees' contract complications shortly. But as shown above, it is certainly possible to create significant cap space without even touching Brees' contract.