Now that we have taken a little time to examine the Saints' current cap standing for the 2014 season, we should look at the players that they possibly will be re-signing. But first, we need to be clear on the terminology of free agency.
First there are players that are deemed Unrestricted Free Agents. These are players that have an expired contract that have played at least four years in the NFL. As the name suggests, these players don't face any restrictions and are free to sign with any team. Restricted Free Agents, on the other hand, are left into the hands of the team in which their contract has expired. These players have less than four accrued years in the NFL. They can be tendered an offer by their current team and can sign an offer sheet with another team, however, their current team has a week to decide if they want to match the offer. If said team chooses not to match the offer, they will be awarded with compensation in the form of draft picks by the signing team. The compensation is equal to the round in which that player was taken in the draft. Finally, Exclusive Rights Free Agents are players that have three or fewer years in the NFL. A team has until the league deadline to make an offer to these players before they become an Unrestricted Free Agent.
There is another term that Saints fans all should be well aware of and that is the Franchise Tag. The Franchise Tag is a one year contract that is worth up to the average of the contracts of the top five players at the specific position. Now that we all have a basic understanding of the offseason jargon, let's take a look at corresponding Saints.
|Brian de la Puente|
Clearly Jimmy Graham is the headliner out of this group. Personally, I think there are two possible outcomes for Jimmy this offseason. He will either be signed to a long-term contract with the Saints (best scenario) or the Franchise Tag will be placed on him, which is pretty undesirable. Because he lined up as a wide receiver for nearly half of his snaps this season, Jimmy's camp is going to argue that he needs to be paid like a receiver instead of a tight end, which is a significant difference. The Franchise Tag number for a receiver was $10.5 million while it was only $6 million for tight ends.
Other names that stand out to me in this group are Malcolm Jenkins, Brian de la Puente, Parys Haralson, Zach Strief, and Kenyon Coleman. However, I believe Strief will be given the option to walk in free agency. The Saints have been more willing to give interior lineman, like de la Puente, extended contracts. I also hope that Haralson, Jenkins, and Coleman are given another shot.
I could see the Saints pushing to keep all of these players with the exception of Hunter. Rafael Bush and Jed Collins should be the top priority out of this group because they have made the largest impacts. Joe Morgan should be approached with at risk because he has had trouble staying healthy, but I believe that he will return. Tom Johnson has served as a good rotational player for the past couple of years, so he will come back if it is at the right price.
These are the free agents that I feel are the least likely to be signed. None of these players are frequent contributors, but Bryce Harris and Trevin Wade do have a little bit of game time experience. Harris was thrown into the fire in 2012 when the Saints' offensive lineman suffered quite a few injuries and Wade was picked up at the end of this season to help out the depleted secondary. Neither player will be highly targeted, so bringing them back should be fairly easy and cost free.
As I have said in previous posts, the Saints' cap situation isn't as bad as it seems. Although Jimmy Graham will be pretty costly, the Saints don't have many more players that they desperately have to re-sign. Hopefully this means that Loomis will have a little extra spending money to improve the roster in free agency.