Saints' burning questions: Junior Galette's bonus

METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints have several major roster decisions to make before the start of the new league year and free-agent signing period on March 10. For starters, they must trim somewhere between $20 million and $30 million in salary-cap space (most of which will be accomplished by converting roster bonuses into signing bonuses).

Here’s the latest in a series of 10 of the most burning questions the Saints have to answer:

The question: Will Junior Galette’s pending roster bonus be affected by legal issues?

Galette is due a fully-guaranteed $12.5 million roster bonus on March 12. The Saints were almost certainly planning to convert that to a signing bonus instead, so the salary-cap cost could be spread out over the final five years of Galette’s contract. That simple tweak would save a much-needed $10 million against New Orleans’ 2015 cap.

But it remains to be seen if any of that could be complicated by Galette’s recent legal issues (a domestic violence charge was dismissed by the Kenner city attorney’s office, but a civil suit alleging years of abuse is pending).

Galette still could face a suspension by the NFL if the league finds any wrongdoing in its own separate investigation. But it’s unlikely the Saints will be able to predict that with certainty by the start of the new league year on March 10.

The answer: Most likely, the Saints will go forward as planned, converting Galette’s roster bonus to a signing bonus and leaving the rest of his contract untouched (he has five years and $40.65 million remaining on the deal).

It’s not out of the question that the Saints would consider releasing Galette if they’ve found any fault with his actions. But that seems even less likely now that he’s not facing any criminal charges. And I’m not certain if the Saints would have any recourse if they wanted to try and get out of the guaranteed money due Galette under the current circumstances.

If the Saints remain committed to Galette, he’s a key part of their young defense, which was so good in 2013 and so bad in 2014. He’s New Orleans’ best pass rusher (22 sacks over the past two season), and he was elected a captain last year by teammates. But like everyone else on defense, Galette battled inconsistency – overpursuing at times, which led to breakdowns in run defense. And he received a lot of backlash for making dismissive comments about the Saints’ former defensive leaders.

Even before he was arrested in early January, Galette stressed that last season had taught him to be humble. The Saints will need to see a commitment to that pledge, especially at a time when they’ve stressed the importance of maturity and leadership in the locker room.