Saints salary-cap breakdown: Defense

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
8:00
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The New Orleans Saints are sitting somewhat comfortably under the salary cap after their flurry of offseason moves. They have approximately $3.6 million in space, though they’ll still need to save about $2 million to sign their draft picks. Remember, only the top 51 salary-cap figures count against a team during the offseason.

Click here for a breakdown of where the Saints are allocating their resources this year on offense. Below is a breakdown of their defense:

Bunkley
Defensive line

Percentage of salary-cap space: 7.32%
Total cap charge: $8.74 million
NFL average: $21.82 million
Biggest cap hit: Brodrick Bunkley, $3.26 million
Biggest bargains: Everyone else

Thoughts: This is where the Saints have a huge advantage over the rest of the NFL right now. They have one of the best defensive lines in the league – and one of the cheapest.

Pro Bowl end Cameron Jordan is still costing just $2.5 million against the cap in the final year of his rookie deal (though the Saints will have to pony up $6.97 million for his 2015 option by May 3 – which will still be a bargain).

Meanwhile, ends Akiem Hicks, Glenn Foster, Tyrunn Walker and Keyunta Dawson and tackle John Jenkins are all costing below $750,000 against the cap. If I had to choose one player as the biggest bargain of the group, I'd go with Hicks, because I'm expecting a big breakout year from the third-year pro in 2014.

Lofton
Linebacker

Percentage of salary-cap space: 13.81%
Total cap charge: $16.51 million
NFL average: $15.55 million
Biggest cap hit: Curtis Lofton, $5.2 million
Biggest bargain: Junior Galette, $2.9 million

Thoughts: The Saints are right around league average here with mid-range deals for starters Lofton, Galette and David Hawthorne. They’ve also got veterans Parys Haralson and Victor Butler at affordable rates.

Lofton and Hawthorne both have big pay increases coming in 2015 (to $7 million and $4.5 million in salary and bonuses, respectively). So they’ll both have to keep playing at a high level to secure their salaries. Hawthorne, in particular, could be a pay-cut or release candidate.

Regardless, the Saints need to start developing some younger, cheaper talent for the future at this position.

Byrd
Safety

Percentage of salary-cap space: 6.27%
Total cap charge: $7.49 million
NFL average: $8.33 million
Biggest cap hit: Jairus Byrd $3.5 million
Biggest bargain: Kenny Vaccaro, $2.14 million

Thoughts: The Saints also have a ton of talent here without a sizeable cap hit. But that’s mostly because of how they structured Byrd’s contract. His cap hit will soar to about $10 million per year for each of the next five years.

Vaccaro will probably become more expensive a few years from now, too, if he keeps living up to his own Pro Bowl-level potential. In the meantime, though, the Saints are expecting to get a lot of bang for their salary-cap buck at this loaded position.

Lewis
Cornerback

Percentage of salary-cap space: 8.66%
Total cap charge: $10.35 million
NFL average: $12.16 million
Biggest cap hit: Keenan Lewis $3.35 million
Biggest bargain: Corey White, $614,125

Thoughts: Lewis is one of the Saints’ biggest salary-cap bargains right now, since his cap number also doesn’t take a significant jump until it goes above $7 million in 2016 and 2017. He played at a Pro Bowl level last year and remains the anchor of this position group.

The Saints have more question marks among the rest of their cornerbacks. They have good depth and guys with good potential. But they need veteran Champ Bailey or younger corners like White and Patrick Robinson to step up consistently after suffering through some ups and downs in recent years.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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