New Orleans Saints salary cap update after signing most of their draft picks

The New Orleans Saints signed most of their draft picks after rookie minicamp earlier in May, so where do they stand against the salary cap? And what could change in the weeks ahead? How much can they spend to improve the team over the summer? Those are a couple of different questions, so let’s work on answering them one at a time.

Right now, Kool-Aid McKinstry is the Saints’ only unsigned draft pick. That isn’t unusual for second round picks (we’ve discussed this before; it’s a side effect of the new collective bargaining agreement), and he’ll likely sign before training camp at a minimal impact to the cap. Don’t sweat that.

As for the Saints’ salary cap outlook? Right now, the experts at Over The Cap have them under it by a little over $5.94 million. Spotrac, another public outlet, has New Orleans in the clear by $5.11 million. The NFL Players Association says $8.85 million, but they’re normally slow to update. OTC is the most accurate and up-to-date source, so that’s the number we’ll be working with.

Expect that number to change in just a few weeks. Becuase the Saints designated both Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas as post-June 1 cuts back in March, they’ll receive some small cap credits on June 2 — a total of about $2.42 million. It’s not much, but that money can go towards covering the costs of McKinstry’s signing once that becomes official later this summer.

June 2 is an important date on the calendar. All moves after that defer part of guaranteed money charges to the next year’s salary cap, which makes it the start of the window to viably trade Marshon Lattimore (a move that would save the Saints at least $3.96 million this year). Other players could be traded more realistically, too, like Taysom Hill (saving $10 million) or Alvin Kamara ($11.68 million in savings). But whether or not the team would trade them, or even find interested trade partners, is a whole other discussion.

So if the Saints don’t make any more moves between now and the start of training camp, they should have about $8.36 million to work with before signing McKinstry. And because the NFL only counts the top 51 contracts against the cap during the offseason, the net cost of signing him will be in the range of $600,000. Expect them to go into training camp with roughly $7.75 million.

Which brings us to the last point: What to do with it? Should the Saints go ahead and burn that money on more players? Or should they sit on it and have a buffer for in-season transactions, or possible moves at the NFL trade deadline? They could also roll over any unspent money to 2025, which might be wise given their salary cap situation.

There are still some areas of need remaining after the draft and free agency. The Saints don’t have a clear starter at left guard. Their depth at offensive tackle is concerning. You’d like someone with real production in the receiving corps, or big-play ability at running back. Another defensive tackle wouldn’t hurt either. But finding the right fits at the right price this late in the offseason will be challenging.

All told, the Saints are in a decent salary cap situation. Their starting lineup is largely intact and they’ve filled out the 90-man offseason roster. OTC has them ranking 26th in cap space. But here’s the catch. Of the six teams with less unspent cap space than New Orleans, all but two made the playoffs last season. Only the Seattle Seahawks ($1.34 million) and New York Giants ($1.12 million) have less cap space to work with than the Saints while also failing to reach the postseason. That’s not the kind of company they’ll want to be in this time next year.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire