Increased salary cap helps Saints

The NFL will reportedly raise its salary cap up to about $130 million in 2014, which is great news for the New Orleans Saints since they have one of the highest salary-cap totals in the league right now.

That’s more than NFL teams were expecting by about $2 million per team. And that would put the Saints about $4.6 million under the cap.

New Orleans still needs to trim at least another $10 million to make room for Jimmy Graham’s franchise tag, its restricted free-agent tenders and some unrestricted free-agent signings once the new league year begins on March 11. But the Saints should be able to accomplish that by restructuring current contracts and pushing cap costs into future years.

It’s still possible the Saints could release current veterans if they feel like their price tag doesn’t match their value to the team. Possible candidates include defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (due $4.5 million in salary and bonuses this season), cornerback Patrick Robinson ($1.36 million), receiver Lance Moore ($3.8 million) and running back Pierre Thomas ($2.9 million). But the Saints won’t be financially “forced” into any of those cuts if they want to keep those players in New Orleans.

The Saints made their biggest roster cuts last week when they released longtime defensive stars Will Smith, Roman Harper and Jabari Greer. Those three will account for a combined $8.7 million in “dead money” against this year’s cap due to the remaining portions of their signing bonuses that hadn’t been charged yet.

But all three will be off the books in 2015, when the cap is expected to rise even higher. So the Saints should still be able to be somewhat active in free agency this year, while signing free agents to back-loaded contracts.