New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette has had one of the most peculiar career arcs in recent memory since he joined the team in 2010. In his first three years, Galette was viewed as underrated and underutilized, once he hit his stride as a disruptive force on the field in 2013, he was seen as electric and eccentric. Last season though, despite another season of solid statistics, Galette became just as disruptive off the field as he was on it.
The man who would become a handsomely paid defensive captain in 2014 soon proved he was ill-suited to wear the "C" on his chest. In a problematic attempt to prop up his teammates, he tore down those who proceeded him. Galette buried champions that may have been lesser raw athletes than he, but exponentially greater leaders than he could possibly aspire to be. The warning signs were becoming sounded alarms.
These are far from the worst incidents an NFL franchise has had to deal with. Atlanta lost a starting quarterback to prison nearly eight years ago, and more recently New England had to deal with a player being convicted of murder. While Galette's incidents pale in comparison, they are in today's spotlight, and the NFL is currently in an era of constant public relations scrutiny. The Saints themselves need nothing to do with and bad PR and would be wise to steer clear whenever and however possible.
For a franchise that prides itself on signing players of the highest moral character, the Saints currently find themselves saddled with the poster boy for ignorant behavior. If not for the crushing salary cap implications, it would be far from surprising if the Saints would just cut Galette outright, and wash their hands of the entire ordeal. It's bad enough that Galette has acted out the way he has and said the things he has, but his strangely incessant need to document all of it one way or another makes it all even more disturbing.
His inane ramblings on Twitter were initially viewed as a quirky part of his character and personality. It was fun since the team was winning and the defense was playing beyond expectations. Now since the defense has turned in 2014 and Galette has been paid substantially more, his personality quirks are being rightfully exposed as character flaws. Last year I joked that Junior would make for a great wrestling character after he leaves football. Now I'm convinced he'd never be fit to grace the squared circle in any capacity.
Under the Sean Payton regime, high character has supposedly come first, and that perception had become reality. The problem now is that there is a new perception with Galette being a focal point. The reality now is that the Saints really cannot afford the cap hit by releasing him, but they alternately can no longer afford the burden of his actions and lack of self control. Even should he be cleared to play by doctors and by the league offices, Galette cannot play for the Saints in 2015, much less lead their defense.
At first, the worry was merely that Galette would miss time due to suspension to start the season. Then, after the pectoral injury, there was concern he would miss all of 2015. That turned into some relief after it was reported the injury would not require surgery. Now it would not be surprising to see Galette face a significantly lengthy suspension by the league in the aftermath of the violence displayed in the tape released yesterday.
Now the Saints are forced to rest their hopes primarily on veteran Anthony Spencer and rookie Hau'oli Kikaha to not only lead the team on the field as pass rushers, but to add sorely needed character at the position. Spencer is more of a jack-of-all-trades OLB, but has been a very good pass rusher, when healthy, during his time in Dallas. Kikaha is a pure pass-rusher, statistically the best in the collegiate ranks, and has the potential to surpass Galette's production, in time.
Time is just not a luxury that Saints can afford at this point though. Kikaha and Spencer were likely to see a great number of Galette's snaps in 2015, but Junior's injury, distractions, and limitations have all conspired to likely take him out of the Saints' plans altogether. Kikaha and Spencer not only need to be impact starters for the Saints, they need to pay immediate dividends. The potential is undoubtedly there, but it was already a lot to ask, even with a 10+ sack-per-season player in the lineup. Now the task is up to these two men to lead the Saints outside rush, and hopefully they are up to the task.
Should the Saints decide to take the moral high ground on this Junior Galette saga, they have to pay him not to play in 2015. Now, can Galette use this moment to turn his career around? Sure, but its highly unlikely. The odds are that the damage is irreparable, and the Saints may be looking for their out once they can afford to cut ties with Junior. The safest bet on the Saints coming out of this situation unscathed lies in the hands of two linebackers who never played with Galette or for the Saints until now. For the Saints' sake, and that of the fans of this franchise, let's hope Spencer and Kikaha can put Galette's incidents in the rearview mirror.