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Possible Saints Player Casualties: Projections by Over The Cap

Over The Cap, a salary cap evaluation site I frequently use, has an article today listing possible players that can be salary cap casualties. Below is their list and my thoughts about it.

Really??? Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Cut Me?!?!
Really??? Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Cut Me?!?!
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The page I'm linking to covers the whole NFC South division, but I'm only going to cover the Saints projections.

2015 ECV Expected Outcomes: NFC South

The page also has links to all divisions, both AFC and NFC.

Before I show you their chart for the Saints Players, I'll publish their explanation of the charts and their methodology for arriving at their conclusions.

As a reminder, the percentages listed in the second column represent the likelihood that the team will keep the player under contract for the 2015 season.  Also, keep in mind that ECV has no idea whether or not the player is talented, valuable, or healthy.  ECV also does not consider the salary cap situation of the team.  I did not run the model for 2011 draft picks whose fifth year options have been picked up.  I view these as one year contracts for which the team has already made its decision.  As a reminder, a pay cut is treated the same as a release.

I only ran the model for players with cap numbers of $2 million or more.  First, the model may break down as the numbers involved become very low.  At a certain point, the cap consequences become secondary to whether or not the player is worth a roster spot.  Second, at this point I am doing everything manually, so it was necessary for the sake of just getting all of this onto the website.  As the offseason progresses, I will update the outcomes in the last column.

New Orleans Saints:

Player Expected Outcome Cut? Correct?
Kenny Vaccaro 98.8% NO
Junior Galette 98.5% NO
Jairus Byrd 97.6% NO
Keenan Lewis 89.5% NO
Zach Strief 89.3% NO
Jimmy Graham 85.6% NO
Thomas Morstead 80.7% NO
Curtis Lofton 62.8% NO
Pierre Thomas 49.0% YES
Brodrick Bunkley 46.5% YES
Ben Grubbs 44.0% YES
David Hawthorne 41.6% YES
Marques Colston 34.9% YES
Jahri Evans 31.8% YES
Drew Brees 16.3% YES

First of all let's look at their projection for Drew Brees.

They have only a 16.3% probability of Drew being on the roster. As stated above, and bear in mind this will apply to all the players I discuss. They mean by cut, that a player will have some kind of pay cut or restructure or be an out right casualty. Well we all know Drew isn't going any where this year. Drew's cap hit is $26,400,000. It would actually cost and extra $7,150,000 to cut him this year. That's right Stuart, the dreaded dead money clause.

Only way Drew would not play for New Orleans in 2015, would be if they could find someone else willing to absorb the load, and take him in trade. Not going to happen. Not looking for Mr. Brees to take an outright pay cut either. Two likely scenarios could play out here.  One would be a possible extension, and spreading out the hits further down the line. This is very possible, but the most fiscally responsible move for the organization is to look elsewhere for cap savings this year. In 2016 cutting Drew would may a lot more sense, and so would an extension. His "Dead Money" for 2016 is the afore mentioned $7,150,000. Cutting Drew would actually save $20,000,000 in 2016. This would be the time to make some kind of extension or other decision with Drew.

Next likely "cut" would be Jahri Evans. You can see his contract details here. Again some kind of extension would be possible for Jahri, but he is getting a little long in the tooth. Evans is under contract through 2016, and while I don't see both guards being cut outright, some kind of pay adjustment could well be in the cards for Mr. Evans. Cap savings by cutting Jahri in 2015 would be 6 mil, with 5 mil in lost dollars. You like that term better Stuart? 2016 on the other hand would save 8.7 mil and only have 1.5 mil in "lost dollars".

Marques Colston is next up for the "cut". In fact I think the only way Colston stays on the team is if he takes a pay cut. Releasing Marques would save 4.3 mil this year and 7.8 mil in 2016, the final year of his contract.. I won't even list the lost dollars. His play has fallen off enough the the savings outweigh any money that would be lost. His leadership may well be valued enough for some sort of salary adjustment to be made.

David Hawthorne would save 2.9 mil this year and 4 mil next. I think he's gone.

Ben Grubbs: They think Grubbs is "cut". I'm going to go a little "Waffle Hut" here. Ben really started the 2014 season pretty strong, and and made my gassed prediction suspect. His pass protection for most of the season justified my suspicions. Grubbs was actually fairly strong in the run game, but Drew just didn't have his normal comfortable pocket to step up into last year. Now Goody had a lot to do with that as well and Jahri struggled with injuries too. Cutting Ben would save 3.6 mil this year and 7.8 mil in 2016, the final year of all of these players' contracts. 6 mil is a lot of "lost dollar" this year though. I think some kind of "change' is made with Ben. Whether that will be a salary cut or release is yet to be determined.

Brodrick Bunkley would save almost 2.9 mil this year and 4.5 mil next. I think he's gone.

Pierre Thomas they have at almost a 50-50 chance of being on the 2015 roster, and I don't think anything will be done here at all. Thomas's contract is already ridiculously low for a veteran running back and with the possible/probable loss of Mark Ingram, I just think Pierre is safe. His leadership and talent are enough to keep him with the Saints for 2015 and barring a terrible year possibly in 2016 as well.

I don't think any of the rest of the players on this list or going anywhere, however several will probably be used by Loomis to massage the cap numbers. The big question mark will be what happens with Junior Galette. His contract was built for moving cap dollars to the back end. The possibility of a 6 game suspension will also affect his cap hit. That one is going to interesting to watch this offseason.