If you thought the 2014 Saints season was ugly, just wait

Too many big salaries need to go before team will contend

Five years removed from New Orleans’ Super Bowl winning season, it seems the era of the Saints as serious contenders is coming to an end. In September, many prognosticators had the Saints headed to Super Bowl XLIX. Many, Archie Manning included, said the 2014 team on paper was the best squad that the franchise had ever assembled.

It was a mirage.

Instead, the Saints limped to a putrid 7-9 record, playing disgusting, heart-breaking football along the way. While many Saints fans are already applying the oft-used refrain, “Wait ‘til next year,” they might want to keep their heads down a little longer because looking ahead to the next few seasons isn’t providing a pretty picture of what’s to come.

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The Saints will enter the 2015 league year in March with more than $160 million counted toward the season’s salary cap, which the NFL has not released but is expected to be as low as $140 million. That would mean the Saints are as much as $20 million over budget. That’s a lot of salary to cut, negotiate or renegotiate. Where and how will be major questions to address as the team has 22 players currently on the roster who will be free agents and aren’t counted against the cap figure.

Most of the Saints money is tied to quarterback Drew Brees, the best player to wear a Saints uniform. The Saints’ most successful era is directly tied Brees, and the team has, rightly, mortgaged the future to make championship runs while Brees has been in his prime. Unfortunately, because of injuries, attrition or just being outclassed, the team hasn’t had another Super Bowl appearance. And it may be that that window is rapidly closing, if it hasn’t already.

Many of the aging stars remaining from the Super Bowl team have lost a step – in some cases two – and do not provide the quality of play consummate with their salary. The Saints were $10 million over coming into 2014 and saw about $17 million in cap savings with the exodus of veterans Darren Sproles, Jabari Greer, Roman Harper, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma and Lance Moore. While it hurts, beloved players will need to renegotiate or go.

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For the next few seasons the Saints will have to rely more on journeymen players, backups and undrafted free agents, as they cannot afford to replace their talent as soon as it is leaving. The near future may be bleak. The team will be good when starters are healthy, but depth will be a serious issue. Tough decisions will have to be made for the Saints to remain a contender. Good byes may have to be uttered, no matter how bad they hurt. Fans will have to get used to that.

         Remember the good times, Saints fans. Who Dat woulda thought we’d have a Lombardi Trophy to show for.

For more on the Saints 2015 salary cap positioning, check out grantland.com/the-triangle/new-orleans-saints-salary-cap/, spotrac.com/nfl/new-orleans-saints/cap/2015/ and overthecap.com.

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Magnificent Seven

According to Spotrac.com, the Saints have seven players who will rank among the four highest-paid players at their positions in 2015, accounting for an expected $92.8 million on the 2015 cap:

 

Position

 

Player

 

Rank

 

2015 Cap Hit

QB

Drew Brees

2

$26,400,000

TE

Jimmy Graham

1

$11,000,000

G

Jahri Evans

1

$11,000,000

G

Ben Grubbs

2

$9,600,000

ILB

Curtis Lofton

4

$9,000,000

OLB

Junior Galette

1

$15,500,000

S

Jairus Byrd

1

$10,300,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

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