METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - For the first time in a long time, the Saints will go into an offseason with significant cap space. The last projection had the Saints in the neighborhood of $25 million under the salary cap. Thus, the need to shed and restructure contracts to create much-needed funds isn't as dire as in years past.
Still, the Saints were 7-9 for a third straight season. Major coaching changes have already happened which means, inevitably, changes to the roster will be coming too.
Here are five potential cuts that could be on the way, though there always seems to be a few surprises.
(Salary cap numbers come from Overthecap.com and the NFLPA)
Cap Hit: $11.7 million
Dead Money: $8 million
Cap Savings: $3.7 million
Byrd had his best season in New Orleans, but he still is not the same player that signed that record-setting six-year, $54 million contract in 2014. Byrd currently has three years and $25 million left on his deal and will carry an $11.7 million cap hit in 2017. Both figures are way too high.
The dead money charge for cutting Byrd outright is high but not insurmountable. Still, it feels like in this scenario the best case would be for both sides to re-negotiate what's left on the contract. If that doesn't happen, I think the Saints move on.
Cap Hit: $5.1 million
Dead Money: $2.2 million
Cap Savings: $2.9 million
This is a tough one. Strief is still playing steady football and even made Pro Football Focus all-pro team at right tackle.
However, his cap hit will balloon to $5.1 million next season and his contract has a $2.9 million roster bonus built in. Strief will turn 34 before the start of next season and when we spoke after the Atlanta game, he still wasn't sure about his future.
Retirement could still be an option as well.
Cap Hit: $3.2 million
Dead Money: $700,000
Cap Savings: $2.5 million
At some point, availability has to take precedent over potential. Ellerbe just has not been available enough despite showing how effective he can be when he is on the field. Ellerbe took a pay cut last year to remain in New Orleans. Thus, he's not that expensive of a player to keep around. Still, after missing 17 games in two seasons, it may be best for the organization to move on.
Cap Hit: $1.75 M
Dead Money: $250,000
Cap Savings: $1.5M
The importance of backup quarterbacks were highlighted late in the season when Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr both went down with injuries. We saw how well their replacements did. Other than Tony Romo in Dallas, I'm not sure there's a backup quarterback I would trust more than McCown.
However, at some point the number two job behind Drew Brees will have to be occupied by the player they see as the heir apparent to number nine.
That player is probably not on the roster yet but could come this offseason in the draft. McCown is valued inside the locker room, especially by Brees, but the Saints will have to turn the page on their trusted backup signal-caller.
Cap hit: $2.1 million
Dead Money: $3.07 million
Cap Savings: ($970,767)
As his contract numbers would indicate, cutting Stephone Anthony would not much make financial sense. They would actually lose cap space by doing so. However, his regression and lack of playing time were alarming in 2016 leaving his future with the club in doubt. Perhaps he has some trade value or can rebound in his third year. However, should the Saints decide to move on, it wouldn't be a total shock.