Risky Business

Saints to suffer salary cap troubles at least one more year
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The New Orleans Saints close out the 2015 season early this month, and while players, coaches, and fans are ready to put it behind them, many of the same themes that have haunted the team the past few seasons will likely be present for at least one more.

The Saints will once again begin the year in a negative financial position—this time more than $4 million over budget, according to overthecap.com. The site estimates the NFL’s 2016 salary cap will be $150 million. New Orleans enters 2016 with 41 players signed to the roster, who have a combined salary totaling more than $139.3 million. The club also has more than $14.8 million in dead money, salary from previous contracts owed to players no longer with the team, on their books. Combined, the team already has a payroll of more than $154.1 million going against the 2016 cap figure.

While this year’s dead money figure is half of what it was last year, the team will still be forced to cut, negotiate or renegotiate salaries to get under the league-mandated limit.

The trouble for the Saints is that they need to cut more than $4 million just to reach the league’s salary allowance, yet are still 12 players shy of filling a 53-man active roster. Fans should expect the team to again cut familiar names and look to replace salary with more economical free agents and draft picks.

General manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton, assuming both remain with the team, will have to be smarter about spending money going forward. The two maximized deals by delaying ballooning salary payments until late into players’contracts. They built a team that went 37-11 in the regular season from 2009 to 2011 and won the Super Bowl in 2009.

Since then, management has had to shed talent and has been forced to fill the roster with a handful of high-priced free agents, but mostly journeymen, backups and undrafted free agents to fill the roster, as they cannot afford to replace lost talent.

The team’s top 10 highest-paid players on the 2016 roster are scheduled to make a combined $97 million, nearly two-thirds of the team’s estimated budget. It’s possible many deals will be reconfigured. If agreeable terms cannot be met, the team could see significant savings by cutting underperforming players before June 1.

Drew Brees, the highest-paid Saint, has a $30 million cap number in 2016, the last year of his current contract. If he negotiates a new deal that spreads that money over a few years, his cap hit for 2016 will go down accordingly. That seemingly would be the best option for both parties and, as it would allow Brees to retire in black and gold and make money available to use toward improving talent across the roster.

Of course, they absolutely must be wiser when negotiating contracts. In 2013, the team signed Junior Galette to a three-year, $9 million deal. He led the team with 12 sacks, and was rewarded in September 2014 with a four-year, $41.5 million extension. The Saints released him just before the 2015 season, and are responsible for paying him $5.45 million last year and $12.1 million this year.

If the Saints are to return to the top of the NFL, they can’t continue to make mistakes like this. 


 



Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football.

 

 


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