Dannell Ellerbe made a tremendous impact for the Saints defense last year. The team went 4-2 in games he played. But that was the problem, he only played in six games. That lack of availability made his future with the club tenuous. He was scheduled to count $5.9 million against the cap and the Saints could have saved $4.1 million by releasing him.
But the Saints rightfully understand how valuable he is when healthy. Thus, they got the best of both worlds. They were able to get Ellerbe to agree to return at a much more reasonable cap hit of $3.2 million. This gave the Saints $2.7 million in cap savings.
The salary cap website, Overthecap.com, estimates this move combined with the cutting of Jahri Evans, Ramon Humber, David Hawthorne and possibly Brandon Browner (not official yet) will put the Saints back under the estimated $153 million salary cap. If this is accurate then it's fair to say the Saints are off to a solid start to their salary cap 'dilemma.'
None of those previous moves are unreasonable nor are any of those players irreplaceable. Evans does leave a glaring hole at right guard but Evans' production had really fallen off the last two years and shouldn't be hard to match.
There's no doubt more work needs to be done. The Saints will need even more space for their draft class and a few free agents. More veterans like Zach Strief, Marques Colston and possibly Thomas Morstead could be on the chopping block. However, an extension for Drew Brees is coming and the Saints could easily convert a roster bonus to a signing bonus for Cam Jordan. Both will create even more salary cap space.