One of the hardest terrains for teams to navigate is figuring out the balance between trouble and talent.
Junior Galette found out Friday that he was on the wrong side of that balance. Though it likely wasn’t an easy one to make, the Saints made the right decision by opting to release the outside linebacker, who recently became as disruptive off the field as he is on it.
The departure of the talented pass rusher means the Saints now will be without their best pass rusher, who led the team with 22 sacks over the past two seasons. They will absorb a $5.45 million salary-cap hit this season and a $12.1 million hit in 2016 just to get him out of the building.
That’s not a small blow. Think about those numbers and all the talent that could be acquired with it. That’s how bad the brass wanted Galette out of New Orleans.
It couldn’t have been an easy decision for the team to reach, but it had to be done — even if it means admitting the extension Galette signed last offseason was a big mistake. Those things happen. Sometimes guys toe the line just long enough to get paid and then break bad.
Yes, the Saints were duped. But the bigger mistake would have been pretending they weren’t duped to preserve pride and dollars.
Galette began the offseason by being accused of domestic violence, a charge that was not pursued, and then a video emerged that reportedly featured him hitting a woman with a belt at a beach. And that’s not touching the misguided comments about last year’s defense being better than their predecessors who won a Super Bowl, which rubbed people inside and outside of the team building the wrong way, and immature social media postings that at times caused uproars.
The NFL is investigating both issues and recently had a disciplinary meeting with Galette. Punishment has not yet been announced by the league.
But those are formalities the Saints decision-makers decided they couldn’t wait to be resolved. Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have sent a clear message this offseason that they aren’t messing around. Something had to be done. This situation festered unresolved long enough.
Most of the players who were considered to be more trouble than they are worth were moved out after the season, forced to find a way to make their livings in other cities and try to fit in in other locker rooms. Given Galette’s talent — and the fact that there isn’t an obvious sure thing waiting in the wings to take his place — he was given two strikes before being terminated.
But it was a decision that had to be made. The first situation could be talked away. It wasn’t pursued by authorities. Wrong place, wrong time. Associating with the wrong people. Grow and learn.
The beach video demonstrated a pattern of bad behavior. Yes, it was from a couple of years ago, but it couldn’t be ignored. It became clear that Galette’s time in New Orleans could be coming to a close when the team submitted it to the NFL for review, even if that was protocol. This wasn’t a team standing by its player; it was a team locked into a strained relationship, ready to face the facts of its reality.
The reality isn’t pretty. There’s a hole to fill now, and all the attractive ways to fill it were gobbled up by other teams early in the free-agent process. The team now will have to turn toward veteran Anthony Spencer, who was signed to a prove-it deal this offseason, to fill the void, or second-round pick Hau’oli Kikaha. Those aren’t sure things.
The only sure thing for that spot was Galette. It wasn’t long ago that the team thought it wouldn’t have to worry about finding someone to fill the patch of turf he has ably stood in the past few years. Those concerns were supposed to be over when he signed a four-year, $41.5 million contract last September.
But those concerns turned out to be lesser than the concerns of keeping Galette around. Loomis and Payton should be credited for making the hard decision. A lot of teams would have found a way to spin a narrative about wrong places, wrong times, shady associates and growing up to make this all go away.
The Saints could have easily done that, waited out and weathered whatever punishment the league brings down on Galette, and moved on with one of their most valuable defensive players still on the roster.
They didn’t, and they deserve credit for that.
The Saints also deserve credit for sticking to the script. The goal of this offseason was to clean up the locker room, stock it with good citizens who are dedicated to the program and find out how to play winning football again after going 7-9 last season. Keeping Galette around while all of this was going on would have run counter to that initiative.
You can’t have a guy who is caught up in these kinds of things and say with a straight face that is the new initiative for the team.
Galette had to go for any of that to be true. It’s hard to avoid looking like a hypocrite when preaching a message of accountability while harboring the antithesis of that message.
Sometimes the only way to equal the balance is to take some weight out of the equation.