The New Orleans Saints have already begun the moves necessary to get under the 2022 salary cap. It has been well-reported that New Orleans was set to begin the 2022 offseason over $75 million over the cap, and a trio of contract moves have nearly cut that in half.
The contracts of WR Michael Thomas and OT Ryan Ramczyk were modified to create over $26 million in 2022 cap space, and reports are that the contract of OG Andrus Peat was similarly tweaked to create an additional $7.8 million.
To those unfamiliar with the process, this cap space creation is done by converting a player’s base salary into a signing bonus and spreading the signing bonus out over the entire course of the contract. A player’s base salary counts against the cap for a particular year, but a signing bonus can be evenly spread among all remaining years on the player’s contract. This is why you might sometimes hear contracts are given “void” or “ghost” years at the end of a contract, and this is just so that signing bonus can be prorated over a larger period of time. This is obviously beneficial for a given season, but means the team is committed to playing that player during those void seasons, even when that player is no longer under contract with the team.
So now that the contracts of Thomas, Ramczyk, and Peat have been modified to create nearly $34 million in cap space, where can the Saints turn to find the remaining $42 million?
CB Marson Lattimore has a 2022 base salary of $9.1 million and is currently under contract for the next five years. There’s potentially $8 million dollars of cap savings to be had there. DT David Onyemata’s base salary is $7.1 million, and while he’s only under contract for one more year, an outright extension for Onyemata (not just void years) would be likely be wise for the Saints. Such a move could create an additional $6 million in cap savings.
Extending a player like Onyemata, entering his age 30 season, makes sense for both parties. Older veterans like DE Cam Jordan (age 33), LB Demario Davis (33), and S Malcolm Jenkins (35) have the room for a combined $24 million in cap savings, but adding years - void or otherwise - to players on the wrong side of 30 is less than ideal. RB Alvin Kamara is under contract for the next four seasons, and an aggressive restructure of his contract, combined with the players identified above, gets the team under the 2022 salary cap.
After rookie Paulson Adebo continued to show promise as the 2021 season went along, the team might be willing to release CB Bradley Robey to save an additional $9 million. An extension for DE Marcus Davenport could free up an additional $8 million if the two sides are able to reach an agreement. That pair of moves could theoretically take the Saints from $75 million over the 2022 salary cap to ~$17 million under the cap, with the only real cap casualty being Bradley Roby. When considering the cap space necessary to sign the 2022 rookie class, this realistically could give the team approximately $15 million to work with in 2022 free agency, which is more than enough money to sign players - like S Marcus Williams, QB Jameis Winston, and others - to backloaded contracts.
To the dismay of media and fans across the NFL, the New Orleans Saints continue to find money where it otherwise might not be, and while there are still plenty of moves the team needs to make to be competitive in 2022, the Saints are well on their way to getting there.