Salary cap impact of Saints losing DT David Onyemata to the Falcons

One of the first players to reach an agreement with a new team in free agency’s legal tampering window on Monday was defensive tackle David Onyemata, who is leaving the New Orleans Saints for a new deal with the Atlanta Falcons paying him nearly $12 million per year. That would’ve been difficult for the Saints to match, so it isn’t too surprising that they let him move on without a fight.

What’s going to be challenging is the dead money left behind. Onyemata’s departure will cause $10,192,555 to accelerate onto this year’s salary cap as dead money left over from past restructures with his old contract, meaning the Saints are losing those resources that could be going to other players. Still, this is a scenario they prepared for. Now the contingency plan is going to be tested.

Sure, it’s possible that they could have matched Atlanta’s price so that money wouldn’t be going to waste. But at that point you’re buying into the sunk cost fallacy and effectively paying twice for one player. It can be done, but for a team in New Orleans’ position it shouldn’t be a serious consideration. They’ll take their medicine this year and move on with more salary cap resources in 2024 (and maybe get a compensatory draft pick for losing Onyemata).

The Saints already had a little over $5 million in dead money on the books for 2023 after various retirements and past roster cuts; now they’re forfeiting a combined $15,231,034 as dead money relating to their contracts with Onyemata, Malcolm Jenkins, Nick Vannett, Ian Book, and Jordan Jackson, which is about 6.6% of the total. More dead money charges could be added depending on how things shake out with Jameis Winston, Michael Thomas, and Andrus Peat, but this is something every team must deal with to some degree. Don’t panic over it.


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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire