For a few moments between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, Saints pass rusher Junior Galette didn’t want to drive, attend football practice or pump iron.
That’s because he knew at some point Wednesday he’d scribble his signature on a four-year contract extension that was worth up to $41.5 million and guaranteed him $23 million.
“I don’t want nothing to happen,” Galette thought to himself. “I have this guarantee on the table!”
Nothing bad happened as Galette drove to the places he needed. He made it through practice Wednesday unharmed. Still sweaty from practice, he held off weightlifting (“Might hurt something!” he later explained), ran up to the front office and signed the paperwork that would keep him under contract through 2019.
As Galette put the pen down, he also dropped the temporary cautious act. All that mattered from that point on was beating Atlanta on the road Sunday in the season opener and making his first career Pro Bowl, he said.
“I don’t feel like people respect me enough that I’m a top-tier guy,” Galette told reporters minutes after signing the extension. “So until people start giving me recognition, I’m going to keep going hard — even after they do, I’m going to go as hard as I can, see where I can go.”
If nothing else, Galette has seen he had it in him to go quite far already.
Four years after making the Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent out of tiny Stillman College, the native of Haiti erupted. Galette collected the sixth-most quarterback sacks in the league during the regular season — 12, which were 21/2 more than he had in his first three seasons combined.
He broke up the first two passes and recovered the first two fumbles of his career, and he recorded 42 of his 79 combined tackles in the NFL on a defense that surrendered the league’s fourth-fewest yards as the Saints won 12 of 18 games to qualify for the divisional playoffs.
“He came here hungry and really made himself,” Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday. “He is very talented but made himself a complete player.”
Teammate Akiem Hicks added: “Junior ... wasn’t given anything when he got here (being undrafted). He had to work for ... all the respect he’s earned so far.”
None of that landed Galette in the Pro Bowl, though. The lone Saints defender who got that honor last year was Cameron Jordan, whose 121/2 sacks led the team and were the fifth-most in the NFL.
However, it did prompt the Saints to begin crafting a pretty substantial consolation prize for Galette a few weeks ago: an extension that would pay him big and preserve his partnership with Jordan for at least this year and next.
Here’s how. Galette’s breakout campaign happened in the first season of a separate three-year extension he signed in restricted free agency in March 2013. It reportedly guaranteed him $3.5 million as well as $2.7 million on signing, and it contained language that permitted him to void the final year of the deal (2015) if he fulfilled a number of goals this season.
In the spring, the Saints, who chose Jordan in the first round of the 2011 draft, exercised a fifth-year option on the contract Jordan accepted as a rookie. It will keep Jordan in New Orleans through 2015 in exchange for $5.9 million that year.
Yet ensuring a productive pass-rushing duo remained together was just part of what attracted Galette to the extension. He’s the father of a boy who turns 1 in October, and the opportunity to set his son up for life while working in a community he loves spoke loudly to Galette, who described growing up “broke in the slums of Haiti (with) nothing to eat off.”
“He’s going to grow up in a different lifestyle than I grew up with, so that’s all that matters,” Galette said of his son, Jovais. “I love it here ... (and) I feel like the people love me back as well, so I took the deal.”
After releasing him Saturday, the Saints re-signed veteran wide receiver Robert Meachem. He took the place of rookie linebacker Khairi Fortt, who was placed on short-term injured reserve with a hurt hamstring. ... Cut Tuesday to let New Orleans re-sign released kicker Shayne Graham (let go Saturday), second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin cleared waivers and will join the Saints’ 10-man practice squad, a source said. It was not immediately clear who’d be cut from the practice to squad to make room for Griffin. ... Fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) and safety Marcus Ball (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Kenny Stills (quad) was limited.