3 mistakes the Saints can’t afford to make this offseason

Jan 8, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) runs to the locker room after the game against the Carolina Panthers during the second half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints are entering a critical offseason. Here are three mistakes they cannot afford to make.

The New Orleans Saints will face a lot of big decisions this offseason. They are expected to be one of the teams in the mix for a new starting quarterback. Will they sign Derek Carr? Will they attempt to trade up in the NFL Draft?

In addition, they will have to navigate their negative cap space. Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas are potential cut candidates to watch. Let’s break down three mistakes that they cannot afford to make.

Here are the mistakes the Saints can’t afford to make this offseason

3. Signing any large free-agent contracts

The Saints have had a rough salary cap situation for a decade now. They seem to enter every offseason with negative cap space. Inevitably, they restructure a bunch of contracts and release a few players.

Another trick to “create” cap space is to include NLTBE (Not Likely to Be Earned) incentives in a contract. If a player’s incentive is higher than their previous year’s statistics, it is classified as a NLTBE incentive. If the player earns the NLTBE incentive, it counts against the following year’s cap sheet. For example, a player was injured in the previous season, and he played in only five games. A team signing him in free agency can include a NLTBE incentive for eight games played in his deal. The Saints included NLTBE incentives in their last contract with Jameis Winston.

Every offseason, the Saints have done an excellent job at managing their short-term cap situation, but at some point, they have to stop pushing their cap hits into the future.

The Saints currently have about minus-$29.98 million in estimated cap space, per Spotrac. They can get back under the cap if they make the following moves:

  • Restructure Marshon Lattimore ($10,065,000)
  • Restructure Andrus Peat ($5,330,000)
  • Restructure Alvin Kamara ($5,546,667)
  • Restructure Taysom Hill ($5,880,000)
  • Restructure Demario Davis ($3,542,500)
  • Release Jameis Winston ($4,400,000)

However, the Saints currently have approximately minus-$46 million in 2024 cap space and restructuring all those deals would not help that number.

The Saints have the potential to make a big splash in free agency, through creative cap management, but they would only be throwing fuel on a future fire.

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