This morning one of our readers asked us in the comment section of another post how the Saints could afford to sign former Denver Broncos DE/LB Elvis Dumervil. When you look at the full picture of the team right now, it’s actually not that hard to see as long as you look at it from a business point of view rather than that of a fan.
According to Spotrac, the team’s cap figure currently sits at $117.4M which leaves $5.6M available under the NFL’s cap of $123M. That may not sound a like a lot when talking about a Dumervil type of player, but there’s more to the picture than these few numbers. While there’s only $5.6M of room at the moment, there’s an additional $5.62M-$7.37M of potential cap space they could tap if they need it. This would give Mickey Loomis $11.22M-$12.97M to use if he needed it for say…a pass rusher, draft picks and perhaps another cheap player or two.
It starts with trimming the fat on the roster that is more commonly known as Roman Harper’s contract. The starting safety currently has a cap figure of $7.1M. If the Saints were to release him, his cap hit would drop to $3.5M creating a savings of $3.6M against this year’s cap. If they were to designate him as a June 1st cut the $3.5M could be spread over this year and next which drops the 2013 cap hit to $1.75M, increasing the savings to $5.35M. So which way would the team go? Sean Payton has said publicly that he sees a place for Harper on the roster in 2013. He has played for the team for seven seasons now and has been handsomely rewarded, but to make keeping him worth it he would likely have to take a pay cut that results in a cap hit in the neighborhood of the $3.5M figure. However, the team’s actions aren’t exactly matching Payton’s words. The Saints have quietly been paying quite a bit of attention to the safety market. Since the end of the 2012 season the team has brought in former LSU and New York Giants safety Chad Jones for a workout, had their scouts meet with USC’s T.J. McDonald at the Senior Bowl, and Nebraska’s P.J. Smith is scheduled for an upcoming visit according to reports out this morning. Either the team is leaning toward cutting Harper or they want leverage in renegotiating him later.
The remaining $2.02M of cap space lies with Chris Ivory. While I do believe the Saints would like to have him back, I also believe they view him as expendable under certain circumstances. Aside from the fact that the team has five running back, there are other indicators that the team would consider moving him if the right deal or a need for cap space presented itself. For example, the team has tendered four restricted free agents: Junior Galette, Justin Drescher, Brian de la Puente and Ivory. While Galette and Drescher have managed to agree to terms on contracts with the organization, there has been not one word about a contract for Ivory. There are three reasons I can think of for this. The first is that an agreement simply hasn’t been reached yet but is in the works. While entirely possible, it seems unlikely. After all, there’s only so much to discuss on a contract that will have annual cap values under $2M and it’s been eight days since he was tendered. For comparison, Keenan Lewis’ 5yr/$26M deal (2013 cap value $2.2M) came together in one day. The second possibility is that the Saints have not worked out a new deal to make him easier to trade. By leaving contract terms up to the next team it ensures they don’t rule out potential suitors with too high of a contract. The last possibility is that Ivory may want to be dealt to another team. During weeks 5 & 6 of last season he made it quite clear he was unhappy with his playing situation. He also surely remembers that in 2011 when Payton was in charge he was only used in the event of injuries to other backs. He may be hoping to get moved somewhere he can get more playing time such as St. Louis, Cincinnati or Arizona. Regardless of the reason, moving him for a draft pick would give the team another $2.02M in cap space to work with if needed.
So with the current $5.6M in cap space, the $3.6M-5.35M from Harper and the $2.02 from Ivory, that gets us to the $11.22M-$12.97M of potential cap space to work with. That should be more than enough for both Dumervil and the draft, but there’s still more to the picture. Dumervil’s situation isn’t quite what some would have you believe.
First of all, the likelihood of a return to Denver is unlikely for several reasons. According to Spotrac, the Broncos now have to absorb a $4.87M cap hit this year due to yesterday’s release. Taking him back on the 1yr/$8M deal that has been discussed would mean a total cap hit due to Dumervil of $12.87M. That would put the Broncos less that $1M short of the $13.62M cap figure he was carrying at the beginning of all of this. Add in the frustration level of John Elway and the Broncos’ front office and the odds of a reunion are low. As for his price on the open market, it’s starting to look like it may not be as high as originally thought. Cleveland’s deal with Paul Kruger set the market for outside linebackers on the first day of free agency, averaging right at $8M/yr. No other OLB has received that much money this off-season and the teams that had money to burn have been spending. Then there’s this morning’s report from NFL Network’s Michelle Beisner that there hasn’t been much interest in his services to this point. The market only gets colder with each passing day.
While it may seem at first look that this is a deal simply can’t happen, you have to look beyond the surface to see the possibilities. Just because the answer isn’t obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t there. With a little work a solution to a glaring and long-standing problem for this seemingly cash-strapped team is very much within reach.