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Recapping the Saints’ third day of free agency

Reunited and it feels so good.

Chicago Bears v New Orleans Saints Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Saints make some big moves before the official league year began. An array of cap-saving moves, details on Brees’ contract release, and a big reunion in the Big Easy all before players are even allowed to put pen to paper.

Drew Brees’ contract details clarified

Now try not to get too exciting. That $2 million base salary is only a small portion of his full on cap hit which also includes a fourth of the new deal’s $23M signing bonus as well as $15.9M that remain from his recent deal all equaling $23.65 million in terms of full-on cap hit. But still, considering that is only $2.35 million more than the cap hit the Saints would have absorbed has he retired, this is a hell of a deal. Lest we also forget that his market value is likely above $30M even now.

Getting this deal done is huge for the Saints as yesterday’s renegotiations with Kiko Alonso and Patrick Robinson basically cover the money added to Brees’ 2020 hit. The Saints have their Hall of Fame QB back and on a deal that allows them to retain key pieces and add them where needed as the prime Saints shopping portion of free agency approaches.

For more on Brees’ contract and the important role the CBA negotiations played, I did a deep-dive here.

Malcom Jenkins returns to New Orleans

The Saints use their first signing out of the organization to bring in S Malcolm Jenkins who spent his first five seasons in New Orleans before playing for the Eagles for six. He won a Super Bowl with each team and now rejoins Sean Payton who openly admitted that letting Jenkins go was a huge mistake. The Saints hope to right that wrong by welcoming him back to the Big Easy to mentor young secondary players like Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Jenkins’ offer is a nice one as well. 4 years $32M with incentives that could get him to a max value of $35M. This gets Jenkins back to New Orleans to help bolster the team’s pass defense, bring a new level of communication and cohesion to the defense, and provide veteran leadership for the younger core that surrounds him.

Vonn Bell to hit the open market

As the league year began and the Saints locking in on Malcolm Jenkins, it looks like Vonn Bell’s time in New Orleans has all but concluded. As many of us have observed here at CSC, it seems likely that this is a situation much like what happened with Mark Ingram last season. Bell likely priced himself out of the Saints’ range. New Orleans has always done a good job at setting a ceiling in terms of money they will put up for a player. If that player or their agent wants more, the Saints are not shy about bowing out. It is very likely that Jenkins became the option after Bell and New Orleans could not settle on a deal.

Bell was reportedly offered $7.5 million per year.

[UPDATE 3/19]: This contract was offer to Bell but not turned down. The Saints simply moved on, per Underhill.

That means Bell will likely head elsewhere, with the Carolina Panthers feeling like a realistic suitor. What the Saints will lose in Bell is unmistakable. He was a vocal leader on the field that continued to improve in coverage every year, was already outstanding as both a run defender and pass rusher. But the Saints are in a good position with Jenkins who has carried the vocal leader role for much longer than Bell has and improves upon him in coverage greatly.

No doubt that losing Bell is hard, but Jenkins helps to ease the pain quite a bit.

Saints restructure some big deals

As per usual, when the Saints needs some extra case, they will turn to veterans on big contracts to restructure. They did exactly that on Wednesday restructuring the deals of Michael Thomas and Terron Armstead. Armstead is a common target when it comes to restructures and it has always been a helpful option.

Details on just how much was opened up have yet to be shared, but you can imagine quite a bit with Armstead being due $10.7 million in base salary and and $11 million for Thomas. Some of that base salary can be converted to signing bonuses which can be deferred over the multiple years of their deals. This creates some relief as the Saints gear up for the next phase of free agent signings in the NFL.

Saints let several ERFAs and RFAs walk, tender two

Ever wondered how valuable Taysom Hill really is to New Orleans? Not only what he the only Saints RFA (Restricted Free Agent_ that was tendered. He was the only player in the NFL to receive a first-round tender at that. Similarly, Saints Second-Team All-Pro Special Teamer J.T. Gray was the only ERFA (Exclusive Rights Free Agent) the team tendered.

Here is the list of ERFAs and RFAs that were not tendered.

  • WR Austin Carr
  • CB/ST Justin Hardee
  • LB Colton Jumper
  • WR Keith Kirkwood
  • OL Cameron Tom (Saints are rumored to be interested in his return, however)
  • LS Zach Wood (Re-signed to a four-year deal)

J.T. Gray’s extension is a one-year deal for $750k and was actually signed sometime ago. Meanwhile, Taysom Hill’s first-round tender will cost the Saints $4.641 million in 2020. However, the Saints may still hope to get a long-term deal on the books soon.

Related NFC South news

Falcons replace the lowly Vic Beasley, who signed a one-year deal in Nashville, with edge rusher Dante Fowler, per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero

Carolina Panthers re-sign safety Tre Boston, but release safety Eric Reid. This has been one of the leading teams for Vonn Bell.

The Panthers also added two new faces in guard John Miller, who they signed to a one-year deal and WR Seth Rogers, per Ian Rapoport.