It’s possible now that they won’t have to release any more of their current players. But they aren’t done yet with the financial finagling.
Wednesday’s moves haven’t been processed yet, so we don’t have a specific update on the Saints’ salary-cap figure. But they will likely be somewhere between $1 and $5 million under the cap, depending on some accounting factors.
The Saints will still need to carve out at least another $10 million to make room for free-agent signings -- including tight end Jimmy Graham, whose franchise tag will be worth at least $6.5 million if they don’t agree to a long-term contract by March 11.
They’ll need to carve out even more than that if they want to re-sign free-agent starters like Zach Strief, Brian de la Puente and Malcolm Jenkins, or if they want to add some starting-caliber free agents from other teams.
The Saints could accomplish most of that by simply restructuring the contracts of several current players (something they have done often in recent years to manage the cap). It’s a win-win for the players and the team, since the player’s salary gets converted into a signing bonus, while some of the cap costs get pushed back into future years.
If the Saints do decide to make more roster cuts, candidates could include defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (due $4.5 million in salary and bonuses this year), cornerback Patrick Robinson (due $1.36 million), receiver Lance Moore (due $3.8 million) and running back Pierre Thomas (due $2.9 million). Or it’s possible they could approach some of those players about accepting pay cuts or working out more cap-friendly extensions to stay in New Orleans.
None of those players is an obvious casualty. Thomas, especially, may have just had his best season to date in 2013. And Moore and Bunkley are still playing at a high level. But all three of them played part-time roles last season with younger players at their positions, so it’s natural to wonder how the Saints will value them compared to their salaries.
Robinson, meanwhile, is still young with the potential to get his career back on track. But he’s more of a question mark after missing all of last season with a knee injury.