Following last week’s contract extension for safety Roman Harper, the New Orleans Saints have a reported $5.18M in cap space heading into the heart of the preseason. This is a very different situation than what was being faced at the start of free agency when the team was struggling just to get under the cap. That much cap space could be quite helpful with as much overhauling as there is taking place on the roster, but what is the best way to use it? Or should it not be used at all? Here are a few options.
Jimmy Graham’s extension: It’s no secret that this is the final season of Graham’s rookie contract. All indications are that he will be seeking to be compensated as a wide receiver rather than a tight end. This has left things a little hazy about what his next contract will look like, however Spotrac.com has offered a very educated guess. They compared Graham’s production to four similar wide receivers and four similar tight ends and found how much his performance varied from each group. They then found the average contract and guaranteed money for each group, adjusted for Graham’s age and production differences, averaged the two groups together and came out with what sounds to be a fairly reliable forecast of what to expect. They are predicting a 5 year, $59M contract with $16.52M guaranteed. That would have Graham averaging $11.8M per year from now until he’s 31 years old. With the $1.49M of cap space his contract already takes up for this season, the new extension could have a cap value of up to $6.67M without exceeding this year’s cap. It could also be split between this season and next.
Veteran wide receiver depth: While the Saints still have Marques Colston and Lance Moore on the roster, there are almost no other veteran wide receivers signed to the Saints at this time. Drew Brees has discussed the ability of veteran wide receivers to read defenses as recently as yesterday. Who out there is worth signing though? There’s not much out there at the moment that’s worth the money, but there are a few candidates that may end up on the cut list as the preseason moves along. One prime option would be Tennessee’s Nate Washington. Despite denials by Titans GM Ruston Webster, rumors and speculation about Washington as a potential surprise cut late in the pre-season have not died down. With seven years in the league, he still produces an average of 15.1 yards per catch and 5 touchdowns per season. This would give the Saints another veteran presence at wide receiver as well as giving Brees another potential deep threat.
Bank it all for 2014: Next year is expected to be another tight year against the salary cap. Following Harper’s new contract, the Saints already have around $137M against the 2014 cap. While $5M falls pretty far short of covering the roughly $12M overage the team is facing next, it would definitely be a good start.