Disclaimer: In no way is this article indicting the contract extension that Junior Galette received at the beginning of the 2014 season. He was coming off of a fantastic season in 2013 and the Saints needed to lock him up. Galette's talent cannot be questioned. However, in a string of increasingly troubling events, his net impact on the team needs to be examined.
Sean Payton has always kept a fairly quiet locker room. There's the occasional trash talk and players lashing out, but for the most part he is a coach that prefers that his players keep their aggression directed onto the field. Galette is one of the players that stands against that mantra. Most Saints fans will not quickly forget him saying that the then current Saints' defense was more talented than the 2009 defense that brought home a Super Bowl, by proxy addressing fan favorites such as Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer and Will Smith. Galette faced backlash from these comments from fans and players alike. Had the comment not come in the December weeks regarding a defense that had played poorly to that point in the season, Galette may not have faced the negative press that he did, but to claim that a defense that finished 31st overall in yardage is better than anyone is a fairly bold move media wise.
Galette's alleged domestic abuse charges aside, as those were dismissed in February, he also had another brush with the law that went largely unnoticed in January due to the scope of the other allegations against him, in which three bags of marijuana were found in his car in the possession of his cousin, Terrance Banks (who was also implicated in the domestic abuse charges). Since the Saints' 2014 season ended, Galette has found himself in the news often, and rarely in a good way.
However, his play on the field justified his contract. Galette was genuinely thrilled after his new contract was signed, calling it "the greatest day of his life." He still led the team in sacks in 2014, tallying up 10 for the year (marking the second consecutive double digit sack season for Galette). He was one of the few bright spots on a lackluster Saints' defense. His one-dimensionality has, of course, been often criticized. But in a league in which the premier pass rusher truly is a prized get, as evidenced by the high selections of players such as Jadaveon Clowney, Dante Fowler Jr. and Vic Beasley in recent years, these players are certainly worth keeping around. Galette was a leader on the Saints' 4th ranked 2013 defense as well, finishing half a sack behind Cameron Jordan for best on the team (Jordan had 12.5 to Galette's 12). Jordan, unfortunately, didn't perform up to his standards in 2014, but Galette quietly had a strong year.
Galette's vocality, while something that many Saints fans aren't used to, can be a welcome presence on an otherwise quiet team. The problem lies in where that brashness is directed. Insulting previous Saints' teams, let alone one that won the team its only Super Bowl in a languishing history, isn't the best way to endear oneself to the fanbase. Galette's talent is unquestionable, his motor undeniable, but his attitude stands in stark contrast to the Saints' usual culture.
This lends itself to the crux of the problem: The question of whether or not Galette should be allowed leeway for his history. He's been a strong contributor for the Saints for the last 2 years, and part of the team for the last 5 after going undrafted out of the University of Temple. There is nothing wrong with having an attitude, it's refreshing in an increasingly PC NFL, but Galette's attitude often feels misguided.
More recently, other questions have abounded about Galette. His recent pectoral injury has his status for the 2015 season shrouded in mystery, and a video has emerged of an unknown person (allegedly either Galette or one of his posse) yelling "F*** Sean!" This second issue is 100% speculation, it's just something that should be addressed, if only fleetingly. Even if it were him, players and coaches sometimes fight, and people as fiery as Payton and Galette are bound to be at odds with each other every now and then.
Everything off the field feels like it's against Galette. He's making a sizable sum of money from the Saints, he can be a distraction and he has a bit of mean streak. As fans of the sport it's easy to rationalize these things by saying that "he's a hell of player," but if his pectoral does require surgery, would it be worth it to keep Galette on the team? Especially since even if he does get surgery, it will likely be begrudgingly and could come up again later in the year (admittedly speculation, but it is at the very least an educated guess). The Saints would stand to lose $10 million in dead money by cutting him, but this could preemptively disrupt much worse outcomes of keeping him.
It's certainly sobering to be wondering these things about a team captain in the 2014 campaign, but Galette is a player that has been and will continue to be divisive among the fanbase. While he is undoubtedly talented, players that eventually exceed their contributions on the field with distractions off it must be dealt with. It's hard to do with a piece like Galette, who was such a key part of the Saints' resurgence defensively in 2013 and continued to be a sole contributor in the floundering 2014 defense, but no player should stand above rebuke if they continue to consistently cause problems. It will be interesting to see how the front office decides to move forward with Galette as more details about his injury (and his reactions to the injury) arise.