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‘Magic Mickey’ Does it Again: The Ballad of the Saints’ Wild and Thrifty Offseason

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The Saints have had a surprising offseason, bringing in talent that can potentially return the team to the playoffs once again. And who do fans have to thank? Mickey Loomis, that's who.

Mickey Loomis has become a creative genius this offseason
Mickey Loomis has become a creative genius this offseason
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis is and can be a pretty smart guy. Usually. It’s also no secret his feet were to the fire, so to speak, this offseason.

He needed to find a way to get the Saints back into NFC South contention and do it cheaply, since the team was working with a tight cap. The result? Loomis dug into his back of tricks and has surprised everyone by bringing in a few big-name guys at low rates.

But, how did he do it? Well, that, my friends, is where the magic comes into play.

The 2006 NFL Executive of the Year knows a thing or two about contracts and how to work them. Like I said, he’s a smart guy. Loomis shocked everyone by signing Coby Fleener away from the Colts, thus filling that hole left by the departing Watson. The deal may have been a bit pricy (5 years, $36 million) but to lure higher-level free agents, you have to dole out some cash. On the flip side, that cap just got that much tighter. This was right in his wheelhouse.

Over the course of the month, Loomis worked his magic with the numbers, bringing in Craig Robertson on a 3-year deal, good for $5 million and, while I’m still on record of disagreeing with the signing, he was surprisingly able to sign James Laurinaitis for to a relatively low-cost, 3-year, $8.25 million deal. He went way creative and signed other-former-Ram Nick Fairley to a 3-year shell deal, meaning the team signs him to a 3-year deal with the option, and every intention to, void the final 2 years of the deal. Not to mention, he brought in Jamarca Sanford on a 1-year deal, only worth $965,000.

The beauty of a lot of these deals are that they are heavily incentivized, which means they don’t count as a part of the cap hit for the Saints. It’s a win-win for the team; you don’t blow the cap and if the player doesn’t meet or exceed the guidelines of the incentive, you don’t have to pay them.

For example, look at the deals of Robertson and Laurinaitis. After coming off a year in St. Louis that saw him suffer his fair share of injuries, New Orleans built in a playing time incentive. If he hits that, as well as his team rank bonus, he earns an extra $1.5 million, none of which hurts the team cap-wise. Same for Robertson, whose deal can increase another $1.5 million based on the playing time incentives built in his contract.

The Sanford signing was a smart play on his part, as well. Not only do you bring a veteran to boost the maligned secondary, but you do it cheaply, too. Sanford’s $965,000 falls under the veteran minimum salary benefit, meaning it only counts for $680,000 against the cap.

Loomis may have looked smart with these signings, but he really outdid himself with the Fairley deal. The shell deal was a smart play, creating dummy years to spread out the $2.235 million signing bonus over. The best part? The deal only counts for $1.51 million against the cap; the rest is deferred to next season, when Fairley may not even be there. The restructuring of the Cameron Jordan and Thomas Morstead deals’ helped out big-time, as well. Loomis smartly took chunks out of the players’ contracts and turned them into signing bonus money as part of a simple restructure of each deal. Jordan’s cap-hit was lowered to a mere $547,000, which will be paid out each season for the next 4 years. Between the two players, Loomis created more than $3.5 million for the Saints to pay with, money they wisely spent on Fairley.

The only blemish on the offseason is the prospects of the future and how dire the cap issues will be then. The ‘kick the can down the road’ mentality Loomis and the Saints have adopted is good for the present, but awful for the future. Sure, it allows NOLA to aggressively shop and build while one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game still has gas in the tank. But, it puts strain on future years, meaning fans and Loomis alike have to stress about finding new, creative ways to kick the can down the road again and worry about it later. At some point, it’s bound to catch-up to our beloved team.

That is the future, however. We can cross that bridge when we get to it. Until then, soak it up Saints fans. Bask in the glory of what has been a surprisingly good offseason for a team that wasn’t supposed to do much in free agency.

With a name like Mickey, you’re bound to have a little magic in you. And he sure put it to good work this offseason when the team needed it most.