Saints deserve to be ripped and applauded after dumping Junior Galette

Junior Galette cost the New Orleans Saints several million dollars and his release will cost pass-rush production, but it's a move the Saints had to make. Jonathan Bachman/AP

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints saw Junior Galette as a rotten apple. And they decided it was worth eating more than $17 million in salary-cap space to make sure he didn't spoil the bunch.

What a waste.

The four-year, $41.5 million contract extension that Galette signed last year will go down as one of the worst in Saints history. They got one season and 10 sacks out of him -- along with an avalanche of headaches -- before deciding to release him Friday.

Galette's brash personality inside the locker room was part of the maturity and chemistry issues that plagued this team during last season's 7-9 collapse. And that was even before he was involved in two high-profile allegations of violence against women this offseason (though no charges were pursued in either instance).

So the Saints deserve to be both ripped and applauded.

Ripped because the Galette deal turned out to be a horrible investment; applauded because they didn't allow the money to dictate their decision-making.

If the Saints felt that removing Galette from the locker room was worth more than keeping him around on the field -- or that his actions in a 2013 beach video that appeared to show him hitting a woman with a belt were too deplorable to tolerate -- then you can’t put a price tag on that.

A source confirmed that Galette was involved in a pregame fight with former Saints teammate Brandon Deaderick last year -- but said Galette didn’t deserve to be singled out as the only problem for a defense that had an abundance of chemistry issues last season and at least one more locker room brawl.

“I love Junior, don’t get me wrong. To his credit, he works harder than anyone I know,” the source said. “But when they made Junior a captain, that requires another level of maturity. He didn’t necessarily capture that. He took it more as a status than being an actual leader.”

It also didn't help Galette that he screwed up at a time when there is a zero-tolerance level for such behavior in New Orleans.

Galette's release now adds a huge exclamation point to the message that coach Sean Payton has been delivering all offseason: The Saints need to regain the culture and character that the team had from 2006-2011.

I actually thought Galette's release might come back in February or March -- though there were salary-cap reasons for waiting until after June 1. The Saints might have had to wait even longer for logistical reasons after Galette suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the weight room this summer. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the Saints are waiting for Galette to pass his physical next week before they officially release him.

Regardless, the message is being delivered loud and clear less than a week before the team reports to training camp -- and I imagine it will be met with approval from at least some members of the organization.

Payton and players talked at length last year about how the team's maturity and professionalism needed to improve. Galette was never singled out publicly for being at the center of that issue, but some in the organization were privately critical of Galette's attitude. And he drew the ire of Payton and current and former teammates last season after he derisively insisted that the Saints' current defensive players were better than the veterans from their Super Bowl team.

Some of those same former teammates applauded the Saints' decision on Twitter Friday, including Scott Shanle, who added:

What a waste for Galette, too.

He had a chance to be one of sports’ great underdog stories, a self-described poor kid who grew up in Haiti then rose from being an undrafted rookie out of Stillman College to becoming a premier NFL pass rusher.

Galette's passion and exuberance for playing the game is hard to criticize -- it was downright inspiring at times. And he had developed into one of the game’s top pass rushers with 22 sacks over the past two seasons, using a relentless motor and an unconventional mix of moves that drove offensive tackles nuts at the line of scrimmage.

But Galette couldn't shake the maturity and character issues that got him kicked out of Temple in college.

Maybe Galette will finally be properly humbled by his latest setback. And maybe he'll get another chance. But it isn't gonna come in New Orleans.

Are the Saints worse now on defense? Probably.

The Saints' pass rush was far too anemic last season even with Galette on the field. Now they've got a bunch of question marks jockeying for position at outside linebacker.

The only saving grace -- perhaps it was a calculated one -- is that the Saints do have several options to replace Galette, including veteran Anthony Spencer -- the former Dallas Cowboys standout who is hoping to bounce back from a 2013 knee injury -- and dynamic rookie Hau'oli Kikaha.

The salary-cap hit might hurt New Orleans even more.

Chances are they won’t be able to recoup any of the $18.7 million they have already paid or guaranteed to Galette since last September -- especially since they released him before the NFL announced a possible suspension for his off-field actions.

The Saints are projected to absorb a $5.45 million salary-cap hit for Galette this year, plus another $12.1 million salary-cap hit next year.

That’s an awfully big price to pay. But the Saints felt they couldn't afford the alternative.