Fox Sports’ Nick Wright couldn’t be more wrong about the Saints and the salary cap

More like Nick Wrong, am I right? The FOX Sports television personality went on a rant this week in the wake of a four-year contract agreement between the New Orleans Saints and free agent quarterback Derek Carr, accusing the team of, among other things, “Some form of NFL salary cap Ponzi scheme.”

Sure, the Saints didn’t have a great plan for life after Drew Brees, and that’s led to some challenges. And the salary cap crunch — aggravated by economic pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic — has cost them some backups and good players on each side of the ball. Pointing to their cap strategy as the source of all their problems, though is a mistake.

Wright claimed: “But the reason that they have gotten worse record-wise each of the last four years, the reason they have won only one playoff game the last four years, is because when 25% of your salary cap is allocated to players who aren’t on your team every single year, you don’t have enough talent. And to do then this with Carr, you’re going to be in this position the next three years as well, it’s insane.”

When Wright’s cohosts pushed back, quipping that they don’t care about the Saints’ accounting and asking whether this move makes them a better football team, Wright struggled to voice a rebuttal before the conversation turned to other topics.

Right now, the Saints are spending just 2% of their salary cap resources on players no longer on the roster, though it could increase to as much as 12% if Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, and Deonte Harty leave in free agency with Jameis Winston being released as a post-June 1 cut.

The COVID-19 pandemic-impacted 2021 and 2020 seasons forced the Saints to cut more players than anticipated — guys like Janoris Jenkins, Emmanuel Sanders, and Malcom Brown were all pandemic-era casualties who otherwise would’ve stayed on the roster, eating up 7% of the team’s cap resources in 2021 alone — leading to higher dead money totals, but Wright’s exaggerating by quite a bit (all numbers via Over The Cap):

  • 2023: 2.2% of cap

  • 2022: 21.2% of cap

  • 2021: 26.5% of cap

  • 2020: 11.6% of cap

  • 2019: 11.4% of cap

So even in this year’s worst-case scenario the Saints are looking at a dead money payout that pales in comparison to what preceded it. Wright is correct that you don’t want to be paying for players no longer on your roster, but the Saints know that better than he does.

His other claim, that the team’s depth was eroded by salary cap management which led to all their recent losses, carries no weight. Few teams have dealt with as many injuries at high-profile positions like New Orleans the last few years. Their starting quarterback has gone down in each of the last two seasons. Their 2019 Offensive Player of the Year winner has been unavailable ever since. Poor injury luck has done more to hurt their odds than the salary cap boogeyman.

You don’t get into sports management to save a billionaire owner some money on payroll. Fans don’t tune in every week or spend thousands of dollars on tickets and traveling to support a team that’s trying to tank. Sports are entertainment, and the Saints are embracing that by doing all they can to maximize their resources. You don’t have to pay interest on future cap space or win more games for having unspent cap space. You play to win the game and that extends to the front office.

We can agree or disagree on whether Carr is the right guy for the job, and not every team has the appetite to pay out a bunch of signing bonuses every year, but it’s not a moral failing to try and win now. In an industry where few people are fortunate to hold the same job for even three years, the only real choice is to live in the moment and compete on Sundays.


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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire