Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC South [Print without images]

Thursday, January 3, 2013
Five Saints on the cap bubble

By Pat Yasinskas

After signing some players to futures contracts, the New Orleans Saints now have $140.9 million committed toward the 2013 salary cap.

That means the Saints will have to trim more than $20 million just to get under the cap at the start of free agency in March. They’ll have to trim even more than that if they want to re-sign left tackle Jermon Bushrod and some other potential free agents. And they’ll need more room if they want to pursue any free agents from outside.

There is no doubt general manager Mickey Loomis will clear some of that room by restructuring some existing contracts. That’s a tactic Loomis has used frequently in the past. But restructuring alone isn’t going to get the Saints to where they need to be.

They’re going to have to release some players to get under the cap. Let’s take a look at some candidates:

Will Smith: The defensive end has a $14.5 million cap figure, which is second only to Drew Brees. The Saints could free up $7.7 million by releasing Smith.

Roman Harper: The veteran safety has a $7.1 million cap figure. The Saints could clear $3.6 million in cap space by releasing him.

Jonathan Vilma: He has a cap figure of $8.6 million. Releasing Vilma would free up $6 million in cap space.

Pierre Thomas: He still is a quality running back, who could have some trade value. But the emergence of Mark Ingram and the cap situation could make Thomas expendable. There would be no salary-cap hit if the Saints released Thomas and they would free up $2.5 million. If they’re going to let Thomas go it will come before the third day of the league year, when he’s scheduled to earn a $300,000 bonus.

Will Herring: The Saints haven’t gotten much out of this linebacker. He’s scheduled to count $1.9 million against the cap. Releasing him would clear up $1.6 million in cap space.