As Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton take stock in their roster and how money is allocated in relation to the salary cap, some things pop into mind that might be of interest to the general fan.
Once March 12 arrives, the NFL goes to a Top 51 accounting for salary cap. The top 51 salary cap numbers on each roster regardless of how many players are signed count against the cap, which is expected to be roughly $121.1 million in 2013.
For the Saints, No. 1 is Drew Brees ($17.4 million) and No. 51 is one of eight players with a $405,000 cap number. Including a $2.7 million adjustment, the Saints are still roughly $16.9 million over the expected cap as of Feb. 19.
In New Orleans’ Top 51, 25 offensive players, 24 defensive spots and two kickers are included. The offense and defense is nearly split evenly, with the offense accounting for 47 percent and the defense 49 percent of the Saints’ $135.9 million allocated towards the cap right now. That includes a $2.7 million adjustment in New Orleans' favor.
Factored into that, however, is Brees’ high cap number. He alone counts 12.5 percent of the Saints’ $135.9 million. That number will go up to 14.4 percent of the cap if the Saints hit the $121.1 million ceiling.
However, that means 24 offensive players other than Brees account for just 39 percent of the $135.9 million right now.
Considering what each unit pulls during the season, it feels like they’re overpaying for defense and underpaying for offense, or maybe they’re not paying enough depending on how you look at it for players trying to stop the opponent.
At 28.8 points per game in 2012, the offense was above the team’s seven-year average of 28.4 points per game in spite of Payton’s season-long suspension. The defense, on the other hand, gave up the most yards in NFL history and allowed five points per game more than its seven-year average of 23.1 points per game.
Back to the salary cap numbers.
The Saints have 18 percent of its cap money going towards nine defensive linemen. Another nearly 16 percent is going towards nine defensive backs. And 15 percent is going towards five linebackers thanks partly to Jonathan Vilma’s $8.6 million cap number (which is 6.1 percent of the total).
On the other side, 17 percent is going towards nine offensive linemen, 10 percent to seven receivers, 7 percent to five running backs and 2 percent to three tight ends, including David Thomas, who was released Tuesday (saving the team nearly $1.7 million).
But with so much money doled out right now cap-wise, we continue to think it’s unlikely some of the bigger numbers – i.e. Vilma, defensive end Will Smith ($14.5 million) – are able to stick around. It’s also likely that others, including left guard Ben Grubbs ($7.3 million), safety Roman Harper ($7.15 million) and linebacker David Hawthorne ($4.76 million) restructure, a la what linebacker Curtis Lofton did recently, to move around money.
Regardless, the Saints have to be at or below the ceiling by March 12 at 3 p.m. New Orleans time.
Loomis, and Payton, have their work cut out, especially since there are free agents that will have to be accounted for and eventually draft picks and rookies.