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Breaking down the Saints remaining cap space

How much do the Saints have to spend and how can they use it?

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Saints have had a busier offseason than many would have suspected considering they started with hardly any money to spend. However, as many around the NFL have learned, with Mickey Loomis and the Saints front office (including the very important salary cap wizardry or Khai Hartley) a little goes a very long way. Any variant of “How much cap space do the Saints have?” might be among the most asked questions by New Orleans Saints fans. Hardly will an air of concern, but most often with one of anticipation instead.

This offseason the Saints have added or maintained some key pieces. Emmanuel Sanders and Malcolm Jenkins headlining highly anticipated new acquisitions. David Onyemata, Andrus Peat, and of course starting quarterback Drew Brees among the names returning. But now the discussion turns to that very popular inquisition, what is left of the Saints salary cap and what else can they do?

According to Kat Terrell of The Athletic, the Saints sit with just under $4.3 million available in cap space after the newest Saints free agency signings were added on April 10th. Does that mean that New Orleans can no go on to spend over $4 million dollars on additional free agents to fill out their 90-man offseason roster? Not so much. But they definitely have money to spend, even around their rookie class.

The Saints’ rookie class, according to overthecap, should amount to about $5.3 million in total 2020 salary once signed. That includes the base rate of $610K plus their varying signing bonus split over their four-year contract. Yes, that is above the Saints’ roughly $4.3 million pot. But a key phrase in Kat’s tweet references how some of the rookie deals will push some lesser contracts out of the top 51 contract on New Orleans’ roster.

During the offseason, only the 51 most expensive contracts count against the salary cap even though teams are permitted to have 90 players on their roster. That means that as new contracts are added, if they are worth a greater value than the lowest of the 51, the new contract helps to pay for itself by “replacing”, as Kat said, that lower contract.

So for instance, looking at the re-signed P.J. Williams:
If Williams’ contract was the most recent to count against the salary cap at $2,007,500, that full total did not count against the Saints salary without a little help. Currently, 52nd highest contract was that of 2019 UDFA Carl Granderson who carries a cap hit of $680K. So that means:

P.J. Williams added to top 51: $2,007,500
Carl Granderson removed from top 51: -$680K
Total against cap: $1,327,500 against the cap

Some of the contracts can help to pay for themselves. There is no difference for the Saints upcoming rookie class.

NFL: NFL Draft Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

According to overthecap, here are the individual costs for each Saints draft pick:
1st round: $2,305,310
3rd round: $834,259
4th round: $782,748
5th round: $684,696
6th round: $651,244
Total: $5,258,257

Now to break down what the actual hit of those rookie deals would be while knocking other contracts out of the Top-51 equation. From there it can be seen what kinds of move the Saints may be able to continue to make beyond the draft.

With the lowest eligible cap hit being $694,151, the sixth and seventh round selections will not knock down any lower salaries, but also will not land within the top-51. That means we can reduce the total draft cap hit by $1,335,940. Meanwhile, the top three draft picks in rounds one, three, and four will knock out the three lowest eligible contracts of about $694K, $724K, and $750K. With that, the rookie cap hit looks like this:

Initial draft pool total: $5,258,257
Without fifth and sixth round picks: $3,922,317
without three contracts pushed out of Top-51: $1,754,178
Remaining Salary Cap (from Terrell’s report): $2,525,679

Now, this is all assuming Saints brass only selects at their present draft positions, which is highly unlikely given their very active trade tendencies. But for now, this shows that New Orleans are in fine position to afford their draft picks. Even better, they can continue to sign players minimum deals after the draft. Minimum salaries did rise after the new CBA was approved, but currently only players with seven or more years of experience would break into the top-51 equation at $1.05 million, pushing out another player which could end up covering nearly 75% of their new deal. Meaning that any player signed with less than

Not to mention that Loomis and the front office still have some cap saving measures reserved should they be needed such as potential extensions for Demario Davis, Jared Cook, Larry Warford and others.

While the Saints have had an active offseason and still have a rookie class to sign, they are in good position to continue building through late free agency additions and potentially the trade market heading into offseason activities that will hopefully still be in the clear to begin eventually.