Due to some questionable past signings we have $14,804,847 in dead money that comes straight off our cap in 2016. No amount of fudging the books will soften that blow. This is the ghost of signings past which have come home to haunt us.
The first order of business will have to be Drew Brees' contract. This is the final year of his contract, and that whopping big 14.8+ mil in dead money which falls off in 2017 will go a long way in working out a contract extension. Drew's dead money for 2016 is only 10 mil. 20 mil could be saved by an outright cut, but no one realistically sees that one happening. Drew counts as 30 mil against the cap as it stands for 2016, or almost 20% of the projected cap. I see a 3 year extension, pushing up to 20 mil of that cap hit down the road.
Let's look at where we stand right now. We have spent for 2016, including dead money and our top 51 under contract $155,730,220. Against the projected cap that leaves us about 1.7 to 1.75 mil over the cap. And that is counting the camp bodies we have under contract. We also have 24 players who are either FAs or RFAs that we have to make decisions about. A lot of those camp bodies will fall out of the top 51 once we make some moves, put that will also push us about 7 to 8 mil over the cap. Now don't panic yet, we have until 3/9/2016 at 4pm EST before we must be at or under the cap.
Our top 10 cap hits, in order are:
Drew Brees: 30 mil, 19.485%
Cameron Jordan: 12.8 mil (all DM), 8.31%
Jairus Byrd: 10.9 mil (11.4 mil if cut), 7.08%
Jahri Evans: 8.2 mil (7.1 mil DM), 5.32%
Keenan Lewis: 6.35 mil (7.2 mil if cut), 4.12%
Brandon Browner: 6.3 mil (5.35 mil DM), 4.09%
Max Unger: 6 mil (1.5 mil DM), 3.9%
Dannell Ellerbe: 5.9 mil ( no DM if cut), 3.83%
Marques Colston: 5.9 mil (2.7 mil DM), 3.83%
Zach Strief: 4.5+ mil (3.3 mil if cut) 2.95%
Closely following are David Hawthorne, C.J. Spiller, Thomas Morstead, and Mark Ingram.
Ingram cost more to cut than keep. Our biggest savings come from, in no particular order, the following cuts. Dannell Ellerbe would be the most obvious, saving 5.9 mil. Colston would save us 3.2 mil. David Hawthorne, 2.25 mil. Zach Strief, about 1.25 mil, Spiller a paltry .75 mil. Thomas Morstead makes a lot of sense dollar wise and would save us 3.3 mil. This might not be popular with fans, but a kicker not directly scoring points can be replaced fairly easily.
The rest can be argued would be cost ineffective.
You can see a full list at Spotrac
Of course restructures are also almost certainly guaranteed pushing more dollars into 2017 and beyond. I left Max Unger off the possible savings list. He is an important cog in protecting Drew, but a restructure is a distinct possibility
I left a poll off, so discuss who you see as cuts or restructure candidates in the comments..