The New Orleans Saints have more wiggle room than expected under the salary cap.
Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley agreed to a pay cut of $2.85 million. And newly-signed cornerback Champ Bailey’s first-year cap cost is only $1.25 million in an incentive-laden two-year contract. (UPDATE: Bailey's cap cost was originally reported as $1.5 million, but it's slightly lower because a $250,000 roster bonus is actually considered as not likely to be earned).
Those two deals were officially processed on Wednesday, leaving the Saints with nearly $4 million in cap space. Their new deal for safety Rafael Bush hasn’t been processed yet, though that shouldn't affect New Orleans’ cap figure by more than $1 million or so.
Bunkley’s pay cut makes a lot of sense for two reasons.
He was originally slated to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses this year – a lofty price tag considering he has been a part-time player for the Saints the past two years. Last year he finished with only 13 tackles, in part because of a calf injury that sidelined him for four games.
However, it also made sense that the Saints didn’t just cut Bunkley outright, since they still believe the 30-year-old can be an asset as a powerful run-stuffer. And he finished last season strong, playing some of his best football in his two-year stint in New Orleans.
Bunkley will make a total of $1.65 million this year, including a $300,000 roster bonus due Thursday. The final two years of his five-year contract were not affected, though they will likely have to be addressed again in the future.
Saints coach Sean Payton said situations like Bunkley’s play out every year in the NFL.
“You go through the numbers, you try to look closely at your roster. There’s some things that go into that,” Payton said. “He’s someone that I think has really kept in good shape. He had the injury earlier in the year. We saw really good signs from him in training camp. He knows the position. We’re excited he re-signed.”
Bailey, meanwhile, won’t cost the Saints much unless he performs for them – which is obviously a win-win proposition for the team.
Bailey’s two-year deal is worth between $3.75 million and $6.75 million, based on various bonuses and incentives. But only the $500,000 signing bonus is guaranteed.
Bailey is due a base salary of $1 million this year, plus another $250,000 roster bonus if he is active for at least six games. In 2015, he is due $2 million in salary and roster bonuses.
There is a total of $3 million more in incentives and escalator clauses based on playing time, interceptions and Pro Bowls. The exact thresholds are not known.