The New Orleans Saints were able to trim their salary cap for the 2015 year in a move some thought would be impossible.
In fact prior to free agency the phrase “salary cap hell” was used quite frequently by the media to describe their predicament.
The Saints managed to not only be active in free agency but end up with almost $4.4 million in cap space prior to the recent signing of offensive lineman Mike Golic Jr.
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While details of Golic’s contract aren’t available just yet it’s safe to assume that it won’t put the team over the $4 million mark.
Free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings visited as well on Thursday and even though he left without a contract, the Saints are still very much in play.
If Jennings signs then most likely it would put the Saints under $4 million in cap space which would start to get close to another boundary.
Estimations are that they will need at least $3.5 million to sign their rookie draft class for this year.
It’s almost amusing to think that the Saints could actually end up with an absolute zero in regards to cap space…in a perfect world that is.
This scenario though would be better than the “borrow from Peter to pay Paul” trap they’ve been in for the last 2-3 years especially seeing as how they have some key players heading into a contract year for 2015.
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The one headliner on the list is defensive end Cameron Jordan which head coach Sean Payton said they are currently trying to work on an extension for the former 2011 first round draft pick.
Jordan is scheduled to make $6,696,000 for the upcoming season after the Saints picked up the fifth year option on his rookie contract.
If he has a monster year like he did in 2013 with 12.5 sacks the formidable pass rusher will have plenty of suitors besides the Saints who will be ready to offer top dollar.
Another player who lines up beside Jordan and will be heading into the last year of his contract will be defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.
Aug 16, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (76) pressures Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn (15) during the second quarter of a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The 2015 season will make or break him because just like with Jordan, Hicks had a monster 2013 campaign with 56 tackles with 4.5 sacks, then dipped in 2014 with 41 tackles and only 2 sacks.
The former 2012 third round draft pick is scheduled to make $1.67 million in 2015.
I mentioned in a recent article about the idea of the Saints drafting hard-hitting Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt with good reason.
Safety Rafael Bush is headed into the final year of his contract with the Saints after signing a two-year deal in 2014.
Bush has been a constant presence in the secondary and was having a good 2014 season with 56 tackles in 10 games but was placed on injured reserve due to a leg injury.
The Atlanta Falcons made a push to try and sign him in 2014 to a contract before the Saints decided to match it.
Bush is set to make $1.95 million for the upcoming season.
A pair of tight ends will be free agents with Benjamin Watson being an unrestricted free agent and the alleged heir apparent to Jimmy Graham’s throne, Josh Hill, set to be a restricted free agent.
Sep 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill (89) catches a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
At 34 years old, the Saints could extend an manageable offer to Watson, but if Hill does well another team could try to outbid the Saints on whatever tender they assign to the young tight end.
In 2015 Watson is scheduled to make $1.9 million while Hill will make $586,668.
For running back Khiry Robinson, the number of touches he receives between Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller will determine how his final year plays out.
Robinson will be a restricted free agent after this season and depending on how things play out he could be back in Black & Gold or on the way out.
Much like former running back Tavaris Cadet, who saw his role decrease due to Robinson, the Saints might not even extend an offer.
There’s also the possibility that because of a crowded backfield, Robinson is released prior to the season.
However Payton not only likes his running backs he believes in keeping that position fully stocked.
If Robinson remains part of the three-headed monster with Ingram and Spiller, he’ll have to make the most of his opportunity.
He’s scheduled to make $585,334 for the upcoming season.
While there are others that are going to be free agents as well for 2016, these are just a sampling of the few that have been a piece of the puzzle for New Orleans.
It’s only another reason for the Saints to not only keep their salary cap manageable for 2016, but make sure they draft well in 2015 to fill some possible spots that may be vacated for the following year……..