There were probably many hands thrown in the air last week at New Orleans Saints headquarters after it was learned that pass-rusher Junior Galette had been booked on charges of simple battery/domestic violence.
It’s a black eye for a team that suffered far too many of them on the field during the regular season — especially in light of the league’s push to stamp out domestic violence within the league. While the circumstances surrounding Galette’s situation remain unknown, this likely wasn’t the way a team coming off a 7-9 season wanted to start its offseason.
But the ramifications of Galette’s situation stretch beyond the public-relations hits, negative press and evaluation of morals that have arisen. Galette’s legal issue creates unexpected decisions with how the Saints will manage their salary cap this offseason.
While the league has not yet set the salary cap for 2015, most estimations have New Orleans somewhere around $20 million over the estimated figure entering the offseason. That math appears terrifying on the surface but, as the Saints have proved time and again, there are ways to sweep the dirt under the rug and still improve the roster.
Looking at the books for 2015, an obvious way to create space is to convert the $12.5 million roster bonus Galette is due into a signing bonus, which would spread those hits over the life of his current deal and free up about $10 million for next season.
This is still the Saints’ likely course of action, but the circumstances make it an interesting situation.
If Galette’s deal contains clauses that allow the team to recoup some of the money paid to him if he is suspended by the league — which is possible, since the language is standard in most contracts, including Drew Brees’ — the team could recoup some of the money and possibly void any guarantees contained within Galette’s contract. That could take the $12.5 million roster bonus hit off the books, creating considerable flexibility.
But for the team to take this course of action, it would need the league to make a quick decision and suspend Galette before the bonus becomes due on the third day of the new league year in March. If a decision is not made in time, and the Saints do not wait to see what happens, they could end up paying out money that could have been saved — not that there will be much of a choice if this point is reached.
When asked whether Galette’s contract contains such a clause last week, General Manager Mickey Loomis declined to answer. He did note his team’s cap situation is not as dire as it appears to outsiders.
“We are over the salary cap, but we have a lot of mechanisms built into a number of these contracts,” he said. “I read we are 20 million plus over the salary cap; we are, but in actuality it is less than half that when some of these mechanisms trigger.”
It’s unclear what those mechanisms are and how they trigger, but there are several bonuses like Galette’s that can be converted into signing bonuses to create more flexibility this season.
Without touching safety Jairus Byrd’s $2 million base salary, the Saints could save more than $4 million by converting his $6 million roster bonus into a signing bonus; tight end Jimmy Graham also can the save the team more than $3 million by converting his $5 million roster bonus; and linebacker Curtis Lofton has a similar $4.5 million bonus that could be prorated over the final three seasons of his deal by turning it into a signing bonus.
Those three moves alone could cut the cap overage nearly in half — and that’s before the team talks to Brees ($26.4 million cap hit in 2015), tackle Jahri Evans ($11 million), receiver Marques Colston ($9.7 million) and guard Ben Grubbs ($9.6 million) about their deals.
It’s also before anything is done to lower Galette’s cap figure for next season. Once that’s factored in, perhaps Loomis will be correct in stating the team’s cap situation is brighter than in previous seasons — even if the equation includes a dark element.