The Saints have figured out a way to keep Dannell Ellerbe in town.
The New Orleans and the linebacker agreed to a restructured deal, of which the details are not currently known.
Under the provisions of his previous agreement, Ellerbe’s base salary of $4.1 million was due to become guaranteed this week, according to a source. The linebacker’s previous contract also stipulates he be paid a $1 million roster bonus on the third day of the league year.
Ellerbe was a valuable player for the Saints last year when he was on the field, though he only appeared in six games because of injury.
He finished the season with 34 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a pass defensed.
New Orleans acquired Ellerbe from the Miami Dolphins last offseason as part of the trade that sent wide receiver Kenny Stills to Miami. Ellerbe, who signed a three-year deal with the Dolphins before the 2013 season, only appeared in one game in 2014.
Because of his injury history, weakside linebacker appears to be one of New Orleans’ bigger needs entering the offseason.
The Saints have cleaned the ranks at linebacker this offseason, having already parted ways with veterans David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber earlier this week.
If the Saints have plans of not bringing back Drew Brees or Jairus Byrd next season, the team missed an important deadline.
Both players had clauses in their contracts that guaranteed a significant portion of their base salaries become guaranteed next season if they remained on the roster Wednesday, according to a source.
For Brees, $10.85 million of his $19.75 million base salary became guaranteed Wednesday. And for Byrd, $6 million of his $7.5 million base salary is now guaranteed.
In the case of Brees, this isn’t a significant development since there was little chance he was going to be released this offseason. Both coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have said he will be the quarterback of the Saints next year and it remains possible his contract will extended at some point this offseason.
For Byrd, unless his deal was reworked like Ellerbe’s, and that information has not yet been announced, this could indicate he will be back next season. The free safety carries a $11.4 million cap number, and it would cost New Orleans more to release him than to keep him on the roster.
New Orleans could, however, part ways with Byrd and designate him a post-June 1. If this happens, he could be released and only count $3.4 million against the cap in 2016. That would, however, create a dead money charge in 2017.
The Saints signed the first member of their free-agent class by agreeing to terms with Austin Johnson on Wednesday.
The fullback entered the offseason as an exclusive rights free agent. His deal is for one year, according to a source.
Johnson was active for 10 games last season and had four carries for 9 yards and five receptions for 30 yards.
Johnson also spent some time on the practice squad as the Saints moved away from using a fullback last season.