Saints have $30 million reasons to expect success in 2017
Team looking to beef up anemic D with free agency, draft
Even though the NFL is in the heart of its offseason, America’s favorite league is in the center of the sports headlines.
On Tuesday, word spread that the Saints would cut safety Jairus Byrd. It will cost the team $8 million in dead money, but frees up about $3.7 million of his approximately $11.7 million salary, according to spotrac.com, and online sports team & player contract database. Byrd was considered the league’s top available free agent in 2014 when New Orleans signed him to a six-year, $56 million contract, with $26 million guaranteed. Kenny Vaccaro and Vonn Bell are still on the roster, and the team will likely pick up another safety this offseason.
The NFL Players Association announced Wednesday that the league set the 2017 salary cap at $167 million. That’s great news for the Saints, who are able to carry $5.75 million in unused cap space from 2016. That gives the Saints a total of $172.75 million to apply their 2017 roster. With the majority of contracts already set, the Black & Gold will have approximately $30.87 million in available cap space to finalize the team, beginning with free agency and the start of the NFL’s new calendar year March 9.
With Thursday came whispers around the scouting combine that the Saints received interest in wide receiver Brandin Cooks, with the Eagles and Titans being possible trade partners. Cooks is lightning fast and has been the team’s deep threat since he arrived three years ago. In 42 games, he’s amassed 215 receptions for 2,861 yards and 20 touchdowns. Still, he was reportedly unhappy with his role last year, catching 78 passes for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns, as Michael Thomas and Willie Snead emerged. Cooks is headed into the final year of his rookie deal, and will demand a much higher paycheck starting in 2018.
It would be sad to see the team brake up what arguably is the NFL’s best receiving corps, but the Saints need help at every level of the defense and special teams, minus the kicking positions.
In an interview with the Saints’ official website, head coach Sean Payton said, “Brandin is someone we value tremendously in our system. He’s been extremely productive. He’s everything we were wanting when we drafted him. Now, that being said, these news items come up and there are a lot of meetings that take place here. I wouldn’t say he’s on the trade block but certainly when a team calls, a team that’s looking for a receiver — and we’re looking to improve our defense — we’re always listening…. We think the world of him and his skill-set. (Compensation for Cooks) would have to be something real significant.”
Sirius XM’s Alex Marvez said the Eagles could get him in exchange for a second-round pick in the coming draft, while ESPN’s Chris Mortensen thinks a first-round pick will have to be given for Cooks. He said he sees the Titans sending their first-round pick (No. 18 overall) in a straight up exchange for Cooks, the Saints’ 20th pick in the first round of the 2014 draft, or sending the No. 5 pick (acquired from the Rams for the No. 1 pick in 2016) to New Orleans for Cooks, the Saints’ 11th pick, and an exchange of lower round picks. Mortensen thinks the Eagles, who will own the No. 14 or No. 15 pick, dependent upon a coin flip between the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings on Friday, would have to give up a first-round choice for Cooks.
Deals and moves are being made in hopes that New Orleans can escape a string of losing seasons and return to Super Bowl contention before 38-year-old Brees retires. This spring might bring about the return of the Saints and the resurrection of general manager Mickey Loomis’ reputation for building winning teams.
After falling from Super Bowl winning highs, the Saints are finally out of “salary cap hell.” They have flexibility to make moves to sign the best available free agents beginning next Thursday and supplementing the team with rookies in the Draft in late April.
Saints 2017 Cap Totals
The NFL year, and free agency, begins March 9. After four years of “salary cap hell,” the Saints have nearly $31 million dollars available to sign players in 2017. All figures in millions.
2017 NFL Salary Cap – $167.00
2016 Rollover Cap – $5.75
Adjusted Salary Cap – $172.75
Dead Money – $18.58
Cap Space (w/Top 51) – $30.87