Vilma suspension could lead to Brees deal

There is at least one potential bright side to the season-long suspension of New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Since Vilma’s suspension starts immediately, the Saints suddenly have an extra $4,932,500 in salary-cap space. That’s the cap figure that Vilma’s contract was lowered to when he renegotiated his deal on April 20.

That could help the Saints, who have been trying for months to work a long-term deal with quarterback Drew Brees, who currently has been designated with the franchise tag. As long as he carries the tag, Brees counts $16 million toward the cap. The Saints have been tight against the cap all offseason, but this could give them the necessary room to finalize a deal with Brees.

Vilma’s contract had been scheduled to run through 2013. But the suspension changes that. Assuming Vilma does not have the suspension overturned on appeal, his contract “tolls’’ over according to league rules. What he was supposed to make in 2012 will now be his 2013 deal. What had been scheduled for 2013 will be pushed back to 2014.

But Vilma will not be paid this year. That means he’ll have to wait until next year to earn his $1.6 million base salary, a $600,000 roster bonus and a $100,000 workout bonus.

Defensive end Will Smith also drew a four-game suspension. But the Saints won’t get any immediate cap relief for that because Smith’s suspension doesn’t begin until the start of the regular season. The Saints still will have to carry his $5,327,451 cap figure throughout the offseason. Once Smith’s suspension begins, his cap figure stops counting -- temporarily. As soon as he’s reinstated, he’s back on the books at a slightly reduced rate.

Smith also renegotiated his contract this offseason and lowered his base salary to $825,000. Divide that by by 17 (players are paid each week, plus the bye, during the regular season) and the total cost of Smith’s suspension comes to $194,117.65. The Saints won’t be responsible for that portion of Smith’s cap figure once he returns from suspension.