Junior Galette’s meeting with the NFL later this month could be more interesting than initially anticipated.
A few days ago, it appeared the New Orleans Saints edge rusher was only going to meet with league brass to discuss a domestic violence allegation that Kenner prosecutors determined was not worth pursuing. From outside appearances, the meeting appeared to be a formality that was going to result in little more than a conversation about the company Galette keeps and some advice to avoid vulnerable situations.
That’s no longer the case.
On Saturday, video resurfaced of a man on a Florida beach fighting another man. He begins swinging a belt to get the crowd to back off, then swings it at a woman who approaches him. The man then leaves, comes back and pulls another man off one of his associates and strikes him several times.
The identity of the man in the video is not clear. The Saints turned the video over to the NFL, which will investigate the matter and try to determine the identity of the man. Galette’s attorney, Ralph Whalen, neither outright confirmed nor denied it was his client in the video.
“I’ve seen it a bunch of times,” Whalen said. “It certainly doesn’t convince me that it’s Junior. I don’t know what basis anyone can look at the video and say that it’s Junior.”
It could be difficult for Galette to explain away some circumstantial evidence. And since he is dealing with the NFL and not a court of law, such evidence could carry much more weight then it would in another setting.
On Saturday night, a photo was provided to The Advocate from Galette’s deleted Instagram account that shows him and four of his associates on a beach in a photo dated March 24, 2013. In it, the men are wearing clothing and shoes similar to what appeared in the video, which was posted to YouTube on March 25, 2013.
If the NFL determines the man in the video is Galette, that he assaulted people on the beach and was not merely protecting himself, he could face a suspension.
The league recently introduced a personal conduct policy that puts the baseline suspension at six games for incidents involving assault, battery, domestic violence, dating violence and child abuse, among other things. It’s not clear whether this incident would fall under those parameters since it occurred in 2013, before the conduct policy was put in place.
The situation creates difficult terrain for the Saints to navigate. Alone, each situation involving Galette can be defended to some degree. The situation leading to domestic assault charges can be explained away, as can comments he made about the current members of the defense being better than some former Saints greats, which were perceived as disrespectful and caused ripples in the team facility.
Without seeing what prompted the scene on the beach, the man in the video could argue he felt threatened and was trying to defend himself and came back to protect his friend — even if the force of his actions was questionable.
Added together, however, the incidents paint the picture of a series of poor decisions. But if the Saints feel it has become too much to handle, or a distraction, their options could be limited.
Galette signed a four-year, $41.5 million deal last season. If he were released, New Orleans would be on the hook for $17.55 million. Since it is after June 1, the team would pay a $5.45 million salary-cap charge to make Galette go away this season — and $12.1 million in 2016.
The only potential recourse could come if the league suspends Galette. Many contracts, including that of quarterback Drew Brees, allow teams to void the guaranteed money owed to players if they are suspended by the league.
If Galette’s deal contains such a provision, then, if the Saints want a divorce, the best course of action would be to wait and see what the league does, so they can potentially avoid a massive salary-cap charge.
General Manager Mickey Loomis declined to comment earlier this year when asked whether Galette’s deal contains language that would allow the team to void the deal if the pass rusher were suspended.
It’s a surprising reality to consider. Less than 12 months ago, New Orleans was celebrated for securing one of the league’s more promising pass rushers to a somewhat team-friendly deal.
Now, many of those who were heralding the deal are wondering whether there’s a way out.