Over the recent years, the New Orleans Saints have been at the center of salary cap talk due to their sizable financial overages. The 2023 season will not be an exception. The NFL announced that the league's salary cap would be set at $224.8 million. While the amount is an all-time high and represents a rebound to the pre-pandemic trajectory, the Saints will be right back in the thick of things trying to trim back a deficit of over $60 million as projected by Over The Cap. Believe it or not, New Orleans can get below that overage by more than enough to land a big-fish quarterback this offseason.
With veteran quarterback Derek Carr certainly on the move this offseason, his ties to Saints head coach Dennis Allen lead many to believe that he will find his way to New Orleans. Many will ask "How can the Saints afford him?", the perennial question of any offseason in the Big Easy. The answer is simple, they keep going with their usual offseason approach. It is more than possible for them to make room for Carr (about $34.8 million), who is visiting them on Wednesday, and inherently Lamar Jackson as well if he is tagged and traded (roughly $32.4 million). Here's an idea of how the Saints could get it done:
Convert C Erik McCoy's roster bonus
This is a mechanism the Saints have using a lot lately starting with tackle Ryan Ramczyk and cornerback Marshon Lattimore. McCoy carries a $10 million roster bonus in 2023 and there's no question that he will be on the roster to earn that sum. So, the Saints can convert the roster bonus into a signing bonus to spread the hit over the first years of his deal.
Savings: $8 million
Remaining: -$52.4 million
Convert S Marcus Maye's roster bonus
The same move can be made with Maye who carries a $6.05 million roster bonus. If converted into a signing bonus, the Saints would not need to add a void year here as Maye is owe over $7 million in guaranteed money anyway.
Savings: $4.856 million
Remaining: -$47.9 million
Convert DE Cameron Jordan's base salary and roster bonus
Jordan has both restructure options available in his contract. He carries a $13.9 million base salary, of which $12.735 million could be converted to a signing bonus and the entirety of his $1.1 million roster bonus can be folded in as well. Convert both and add an additional void year to his deal to spread the deferred hit out over five years to maximize the savings.
Savings: $10.668 million
Remaining: -$36.9 million
Convert CB Marshon Lattimore's base salary
Of his $14.5 million base salary, $13.335 million can be converted to a signing bonus. The Saints could then add an additional void year to maximize the deferment. With only six accrued seasons, his veteran minimum would be lower than that of Jordan's.
Savings: $10.736 million
Remaining: -$26.2 million
Convert RT Ryan Ramczyk's base salary
The exact same approach can be taken with Ramczyk as with Lattimore. Reduce his 2023 base salary from $14 million to $1.08 million and convert the remaining funs to a signing bonus while adding a void year.
Savings: $10.36 million
Remaining: -$15.8 million
Convert LG Andrus Peat's base salary
NFL teams get only two post-June 1 transactions. It seems likely that quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Michael Thomas will be those moves. So while designating Peat as a post-June 1 cut would save them north of $11 million, they may not have the option to do it in time before the new league year. With that, we've chosen to instead restructure his contract and reduce his base salary to the veteran minimum appropriate for his vested years: $1.165 million and convert the rest to a signing bonus while adding a void year.
Savings: $8.528 million
Remaining: -$7.3 million
Convert RB Alvin Kamara's base salary and roster bonus
Just like Jordan, Kamara has a base salary that can be reduced and converted in addition to a roster bonus that can also be added. Converting both moves $9.92m into future years and the fifth void year added on slims the hit as well.
Savings: $7.536 million
At this point, the Saints are now in the green.
Convert TE Taysom Hill's base salary
If the Saints were to go this route, it would limit their ability to fulfill Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton's public desire of trading for him. But that isn't all bad. Keeping Hill along for the ride is a wise move in a tight end room that will need some juice behind starter Juwan Johnson in 2023. Never hurts to have that change-of-pace passer as well when you need him.
Savings: $7.256 million
Remaining: $7.9 million
Convert LB Demario Davis's base salary and roster bonus
Davis's base salary and roster bonus combined amounts to $8.5 million in 2023. Reducing the base salary to vet minimum and convert the remaining salary and bonus will free up more space. No need to add a fifth void year to his deal, as there are already enough included on his contract.
Savings: $5.868 million
Available: $13.7 million
Designate QB Jameis Winston as a post-June 1 cut
The writing is essentially on the wall with Carr set to visit New Orleans on Wednesday that Winston is no longer a part of the team's future. The most effective way to open up the necessary funds to get Carr in the building would be to designate the Saints former starting passer as a post-June 1 termination.
Savings: $12.8 million
Available: $26.5 million
Designate WR Michael Thomas as a post-June 1 cut
The money in 2023 has already been saved when it comes to Thomas after he reduced his base salary in 2023 to veteran minimum. That move precludes this one which saves the Saints limited funds this year, but keeps them from incurring over $60 million in potential charges come 2024.
Savings: $1.365 million
Available: $27.9 million
Cut K Wil Lutz
This would be a tough move for the Saints, but the only unexpected cut on the list. After struggling in 2022, it seems likely that New Orleans will be brining in competition one way or another. The Saints could also elect to extend Lutz, but that might have been a wiser choice following a better season.
Savings: $3.7 million
Available: $31.6 million
Extend DE Carl Granderson
While the debate rages on whether or not the Saints will extend first-round defensive end Marcus Davenport, everyone has seen how impactful Granderson was toward the end of 2022. Here, the Saints could avoid another Trey Hendrickson situation and save themselves some money all in one fell swoop. They simple extend Granderson (two-way street of course) with a first year amount at veteran minimum, a light signing bonus, and a big roster bonus in 2024 which could then be converted at a later time.
Savings: $2.44 million
Available: $33.4 million
Cut WR Tre'Quan Smith
The Saints can find another wideout in the draft or free agency that can help in the run game while adding more production in the passing game than Smith has been able to provide. And if it means getting over the hump to get a starting quarterback in the building, this is a no-brainer, especially with new wideouts taking over the room like Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed.
Savings: $1.9 million
Available: $35.3 million
But what about the rest of the free agents?
After trading for Carr or Jackson, the Saints could then restructure or extend the quarterback's contract, creating more money in 2023 for the Saints to retain valuable free agents like tight end Juwan Johnson and linebacker Kaden Elliss. This is exactly what the Saints intended to do last offseason had they landed Deshaun Watson. They're going to move aggressively to address their top offseason priority in finding a new starting quarterback.
Story originally appeared on Saints Wire