Guarantees kick in for Saints' Drew Brees, Jairus Byrd; Ellerbe restructures

Part of Drew Brees' 2016 contract became fully guaranteed Wednesday. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS – Drew Brees, Jairus Byrd and Dannell Ellerbe won’t become salary-cap casualties for the New Orleans Saints this year.

Brees and Byrd had large portions of their salaries become fully guaranteed on Wednesday. Ellerbe, meanwhile, restructured his contract to remain on the roster, according to a league source.

The specifics of Ellerbe’s new deal are unknown. He was scheduled to earn $5.2 million in salary and bonuses in 2016. That would have been too costly for the 30-year-old veteran, who was limited to just six games because of injuries last year. However, it made sense for both sides to work out a pay cut because the former Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins starter appeared to be a good fit in New Orleans’ defense at weakside linebacker when he was healthy.

Brees is scheduled to earn $20 million in salary and bonuses this year. A total of $10.85 million became fully guaranteed Wednesday, a league source confirmed to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. That’s no surprise, as it would have been stunning for the Saints to cut Brees despite his hefty salary-cap cost of $30 million. However, it is likely that the Saints will try to work out an extension with Brees this offseason to reduce his cap hit.

Byrd is scheduled to earn $7.5 million in salary and bonuses this year. A total of $6 million became fully guaranteed on Wednesday, a league source confirmed. Byrd’s situation seemed a bit tenuous because of his lofty price tag and the Saints’ tight salary-cap situation. However, the Saints are banking that Byrd will finally return to form if he finally has a fully healthy offseason. Injuries marred Byrd’s first two years with the Saints after he signed a six-year, $54 million contract in 2013.

The Saints also re-signed fullback Austin Johnson, who was an exclusive-rights free agent. Fullback has become a part-time role in New Orleans, as the Saints sometimes don’t have any fullbacks on the active roster. But Johnson has been their primary fullback for most of the past two seasons.