New Orleans Saints salary cap outlook: Jimmy Graham is in line for an extension

Brian McIntyre
July 22, 2013

The "Shutdown Countdown" is going full steam ahead. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the New Orleans Saints.

2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $124.619 million (11th-lowest adjusted cap number in the NFL in 2013)

2013 Cap Room Remaining: $5.173 million (11th-lowest available cap space, as of July 22)

Best Bargain: Center Brian de la Puente ping-ponged between the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers before finding a home in New Orleans in 2010. Over the last two seasons, de la Puente has started 28 of 32 games and is coming off a season where he played in all 1,107 of the Saints' offensive snaps. According to Football Outsiders Almanac 2013, de la Puente had nine blown blocks in 2012, a rate of one blown block every 123.1 snaps that ranked 10th among interior offensive linemen. As a restricted free agent this offseason, the Saints placed a "Second Round" tender on de la Puente, which comes with a non-guaranteed base salary of $2.023 million, which would be the 20th-highest salary among NFL centers this season.

Potential Camp Cap Casualty: To create salary cap space, the Saints cut tight end David Thomas and renegotiated the contracts of Brodrick Bunkley, Ben Grubbs, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Roman Harper. With the Saints switching to a 3-4 defense, the 32-year-old Smith might have found himself on the bubble this summer. It will be interested to see how the veteran adjusts to the outside linebacker position, but at $3 million in base salary, Smith is unlikely to be going anywhere as he still has value as a pass-rusher in nickel packages.

Looming Contract Issue: Tight end Jimmy Graham is scheduled to earn $1.323 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2013, the fourth and final season of a $3.3 million rookie contract that included just $665,140 in guaranteed money. With 215 receptions for 2,648 yards and 25 touchdowns in his first three seasons in the NFL, Graham's next contract is expected to come in at between $7-8 million per season with $15-20 million in guaranteed money. The Saints have a little bit of leverage at the moment as they will be able to use the franchise tag on Graham next offseason. If the salary cap remains flat, the tight end franchise tender is projected to be worth $5.894 million.

Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The Saints' front office will be busy getting salary cap compliant before the start of the 2014 league year. The "Top 51" contracts for next season currently have $143.396 in salary cap commitments, the second-highest total in the NFL, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys. That figures includes $13.9 million for Smith, who is due a $1 million roster bonus on the third day of the 2014 league year and is slated to earn a $10.4 million base salary in the final year of his contract. The Saints have only 41 players under contract for the 2015 season, but have $129.1 million in salary cap commitments, the second-highest total behind, you guessed it, the Cowboys.

Previous salary cap outlooks

32. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Buffalo Bills
28. Cleveland Browns
27. Tennessee Titans
26. Kansas City Chiefs
25. New York Jets
24. San Diego Chargers
23. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Miami Dolphins
21. St. Louis Rams
20. Minnesota Vikings
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18. Dallas Cowboys
17. Detroit Lions
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
15. Indianapolis Colts