The New Orleans Saints having issues with salary cap space is hardly a surprise in 2022. The combination is becoming almost an NFL yearly tradition at this point. However, as multiple teams have proven — especially in recent years — cap space issues can be very much fluid. Let’s take a look at the Saints salary cap situation for 2022 as it stands at the end of February and their options to open up cap space in the coming weeks.
All numbers quoted in this article are from Spotrac.
Saints salary cap outlook for 2022
After their first moves ahead of the season the Saints are currently $50 million over the salary cap. Given that New Orleans will need to open up cap space to make additions and fit their draft picks in, they are going to need to free up at least another $55 million — if not more than $75 million in the coming weeks.
Getting under the salary cap will take the Saints some work, but it’s certainly achievable. The reason that being this far over the salary cap is viewed as a disaster by many is the way it limits the Saints’ ability to add reinforcements this offseason. New Orleans has a good roster, but to be a bona fide challenger, they need to add more difference-makers. In order to do that, they really need significant cap space, and that is hard to create when you have to clear $76 million to even break even.
Saints potential salary cap moves in 2022
The problem for the Saints is that they need to make moves at almost every position group to make this work. Doing so will push cap hits back into 2023 and beyond. While the cap is expected to rise significantly in the coming years, the Saints will consistently be playing catch up, while others can spend that excess cap space freely.
Let’s examine some of the options New Orleans has as they look to get under the cap and create space to make moves this offseason.
Taysom Hill’s contract has cap saving options for the Saints in 2022
What you make of the Taysom Hill contract is another situation altogether. We have no idea whether Dennis Allen and his staff will have the same faith in the utility QB as Sean Payton did. What we do know is that for 2022 — and probably 2023 — Allen and the Saints need to manage the contract because they won’t be able to get out of it.
Right now, Hill is set to count $12.325 million against the Saints’ salary cap. All of the money this year is guaranteed, meaning it would leave $19 million in dead money to release him. There is then the issue of another $9.9 million in 2023 base salary becoming guaranteed on March 18, 2022.
Therefore, the Saints could decide to manage the $12.325 million cap number by utilizing restructures. They have the option of moving around his $9 million roster bonus and using it as a signing bonus to spread the cap number. Doing so by adding a void year could save more than $7 million without significantly driving up the price in 2023.
Hill’s contract could increase if he hits the passing thresholds. However, if he does hit them, it’s likely because he is succeeding in the role, which would be more valuable to New Orleans than the excess cost that would be incurred.
The Alvin Kamara situation somewhat complicates matters for New Orleans
Alvin Kamara’s arrest after the Pro Bowl has clouded his situation in New Orleans significantly. He is due to count $14.5 million against the cap in 2022, and with a number of guarantees remaining, would cost the Saints $20.5 million if they released him. However, the arrest could be cause for the Saints to void Kamara’s guarantees. In that case, they would be able to move on with a $9 million dead money charge.
It seems unlikely at this stage that New Orleans would cut ties completely. Therefore, let’s look at their options in terms of restructuring the deal to save money. They could save around $8 million by utilizing a void year and dropping his combined $11.5 million in base salary and roster bonus to the veteran minimum.
The Saints appear committed to keeping Michael Thomas for 2022 at least
The Saints had some tough decisions to make with Thomas’ contract. Moving on from him now would have saved just $2 million. Therefore, with a decision looming, they made the move to restructure Thomas’ contract according to Field Yates.
According to the report, the Saints converted $14.565 million to a signing bonus. Depending on whether they added void years to the deal, this will have saved between $9.71 million and $11.652 million. Based on the numbers Yates gave in terms of cap space freed up ($26.217 million) it would appear the Saints did in fact add void years to Thomas’s deal.
The Saints have tough decisions to make on the offensive line
There are lots of potential savings to be made for the Saints on the offensive line. Let’s start with the players under contract for 2022. Ryan Ramczyk had a cap hit of just over $23 million. However, with more than $19 million of that available to be moved around the Saints did exactly that. They converted $18.2 million into a signing bonus according to Field Yates. The report is that the Saints freed up $26.217 million, which for that maths to work would indicate they also added void years to Ramczyk’s deal.
Andrus Peat will carry a cap number of $15.45 million. The Saints have just under $13 million of that with which to play. New Orleans could move over $9 million into future years if they add two void years to the deal. Elsewhere on the line, they have the rookie deals of Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz, who are relatively cheap. They could extend McCoy to save a little, but it would not be significant.
The big question is that of Terron Armstead. With his contract set to void, he would leave behind a $13 million dead money hit. The only way the Saints can save any of that would be to extend his deal before the void happens. They would start with a base cap number of $5.2 million and could feasibly backload the deal to keep that cap number to around $10 million.
Spotrac currently projects Armstead’s market value to be $96 million over four years. The savings by keeping Armstead would not be significant, but combined with getting to keep their talented left tackle, it seems like a smart option right now.
Cameron Jordan, Marshon Lattimore, and Bradley Roby all offer potential cap space savings for the Saints in 2022
Part of what makes the exercise for the Saints to save salary cap space in 2022 this offseason is that there’s really only one obvious cut candidate to clear significant space — Bradley Roby at $9.5 million. Therefore, they may have to restructure multiple contracts on the defensive side of the ball as well as the offensive moves we have already outlined.
Starting with the defensive line, New Orleans could use a combination of restructures and a potential extension for Marcus Davenport to open up a projected $20 million in cap space. Doing so would include adding a combined five void years between Cameron Jordan and David Onyemata while committing a potential $90-100 million to Davenport over a four-year extension.
We can jump through the linebacker position, where a $5 million cap saving with a restructure for Demario Davis is probably the only option. That is because there is a lot of potential savings at defensive back. Marshon Lattimore is one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league. However, his $27 million cap number contains a $15 million roster bonus and a $9.1 million salary. The Saints could stretch out the roster bonus as a signing bonus to save $12 million or include the salary and save closer to $18 million.
Assuming they do release Roby and save $9.5 million, that leaves Malcolm Jenkins as another intriguing player to watch. Releasing Jenkins ahead of the league year would save $3.8 million in 2022. If the Saints want to keep him, then they can save up to $4.9 million this year by utilizing void years in his deal. How they see Jenkins’ future with the team will determine which salary cap space-creating option the Saints use entering the 2022 NFL league year.