The secondary has been one of the bigger issues for the Saints ever since 2013. The team thought they had the answer with Jairus Byrd, but it looks like a finished project. We take a look at that and just how the contracts look for the New Orleans Saints secondary right now.
When it comes to the secondary, the Saints are actually in a different situation than usually. Over the years money has been dished out to several free agents like Keenan Lewis, Jabari Greer, Jairus Byrd, and Brandon Browner. The team has always spend a solid amount on limiting the opposing passing yards, but now it’s different.
The secondary contracts currently counts $21,229,763 against the total cap. That is 14.50% of the total cap, which isn’t a lot. It places the Saints about $3 million under the league average and just about $17 million under the league leading secondary spenders up in Seattle.
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Much of this has to do with the current amount of injuries and the Saints recent mistakes. This has also happened because of the big dead cap, which limits the Saints from making bigger signings.
Let’s break it down and take a look at the individual contracts for the 2016 season.
Harris was one of the many undrafted free agents the Saints brought in this offseason. His excellent play in tranning camp earned him a spot on the 2016 roster. Not only that, he was actually set to be the starting nickel corner, but things has not gone well for Harris. Sterling Shepard owned him in week 2 and he made a critical mistake on a punt against the Falcons.
That was enough to put him in Sean Payton’s “dog house”. Harris hasn’t had a snap on defense since the Giants game and might have a long way to get back onto the field.
Harris is in his first year of a 3-year $1,620,000 contract. His contract currently counts $450,000 against the 2016 cap, but the Saints can cut him at any time for the next 3 years without adding to the dead cap.
Harris could stick around for a few more years, but he will have to prove he can be the guy we thought he would be in tranning camp.
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive back Erik Harris (30) catches a pass before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Erik Harris was a guy who many thought would have a role on this Saints team. He played very well in training camp and also had decent showings in preseason games. That apparently wasn’t enough for Dennis Allen as Harris only has 3 snaps so far this season.
Harris is currently in his first year off the the deal he signed with the Saints, after his successful stay with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL. The deal is 3-years and $1,620,000. This season Harris’ contract will count $450,000 against the cap. That number will increase to $540,000 in year two and $630,000 in year three. This is of course only relevant if the Saints decide to keep him on the team in the future.
Only time will tell of Harris can get a bigger role on the team and extend his stay in New Orleans. Things might not look too good right now, but that could all change as we get further into the season.
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Ken Crawley (46) catches a pass before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
All preseason we heard about the fight between the two undrafted cornerbacks Ken Crawley and De’Vante Harris. They both made big plays in practice and made life tough for a future hall of fame quarterback, who usually dominates practice like he dominates games.
Week one came and Harris was declared the winner with Ken Crawley on the bench. Now four weeks later the situation is completely different. Harris is no longer playing and Crawley is current the #1 cornerback on the Saints depth chart. He off course has this spot because of the injuries to Delvin Breaux and PJ Williams, but also because off his good play. He has made some big mistakes, but as a whole he has been very impressive.
What is even better, is that he like the two Harris guys, also plays on a 3-year $1,650,000 deal. Crawley’s spot on the team is obviously not secure when the team gets fully healthy, but he could develop into a starter or be a viable backup for the next couple of seasons.
Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive back Roman Harper (41) talks to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen in the second half of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Roman Harper was released by the Saints following the 2013 season. He then went on to play for the Carolina Panthers, starting every regular season game with the club. The Panthers decided to to cut him after their disappointing Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos.
Then during training camp, the Saints decided to bring him back to the team. Not only could Harper help the safety rotation, but he is also a great leader. Exactly the guy you want in the locker room to help the young guys both on and off the field.
The Saints signed him to a 1-year $1,065,000 contract. He received a $80,000 signing bonus and in $230,000 guaranteed money. The Saints decided to keep Harper around for the season hoping he could help some on the field, but mostly in the locker room. You always want a guy like Harper around your team, but it is unlikely the team will sign him again after the season. Sean Payton could look to add him to the staff, but we will see what happens.
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback B.W. Webb (28) looks at the San Diego Chargers defense prior to the snap during the second half at Qualcomm Stadium. New Orleans won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Because of the growing number of injuries in the secondary, the Saints had to go out and find the best guy available on the market. That guy was Webb. He didn’t make the final roster cuts in Tennessee with the Titans and had to look around for another job.
Webb has been more than decent throughout the last two games. On his 20 snaps against the Falcons he did his job and showed decent coverage skills. Against the Chargers he had a couple of pass breakups and also made the game winning interception late in the 4rd quarter.
Webb was signed to a minimum 1-year $675,000 deal. If Webb keeps up the good play, they could look to extend him further into the future, but for now they will settle with the 1-year deal.
Sep 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) runs with the ball while being defended by New Orleans Saints defensive back Sterling Moore (24) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Sterling Moore is another one of the signings the Saints made because of injuries. Moore was brought in before the game against the Raiders, but only for depth. It quickly became clear the Saints would have to use him and he really performed in his first game. He had to cover Odell Beckham Jr. and made several good plays. He did have a few penalties, but what could you expect from a newly signed guy against one of the premier pass catchers in the league.
Moore was signed to a 1-year $760,000 contract. The Saints will have to consider extending Moore into the future if he plays well throughout the season. He will have to fight with all the other guys the team brought in, since they all have the talent and potential to contribute to a team.
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tight end Hunter Henry (86) cannot bring in a catch during the second quarter as New Orleans Saints free safety Vonn Bell (48) defends at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Because of the issues in the secondary, Mickey Loomis and his staff decided to trade back into the 2nd round and select the safety Vonn Bell. Bell who had a breakout year in his sophomore season looked like one of the players, who could turn into a real play maker on the next level.
We are still waiting to see if that will happen, but Bell as a whole has been very decent. After playing zero snaps in the first game, Dennis Allen started to play Bell in a rotational role before starting him in the game against the Chargers. While Bell struggled against the Chargers he has still been one of the bright spots on the defense so far.
Bell is playing under his newly signing rookie contract. The contract is a 4-year $3,972,999 deal with a total of $1,088,945 in guaranteed money.
All fans should be concerned about with Bell is his play. Hopefully he can bounce back from the disappointing performance in his first start against the Chargers and continue to improve throughout the season.
Jun 16, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux (40) during the final day of minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Breaux was supposed to be one of the most important players for the Saints this season. Because of the amazing play in his rookie season, Breaux had secured the #1 spot and solidified himself as one of the better up and coming cornerbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately for him and the Saints, Breaux suffered a broken fibula in the week one game against the Raiders. An injury that will keep him out for the first half of the season.
Coming down from the CFL, Breaux was a hot name on the market. Lots of teams scheduled workouts for him, but he eventually decided to go back home. Back to New Orleans where he grew up and where he suffered one of the most severe injuries you can possible suffer. The Saints signed him to a 3-year $1,587,000 with $150,000 guaranteed.
This is already a steal for the Saints, despite his recent injury. When Breaux is on the field he can cover the #1 receiver and make plays on the ball as well. The Saints should look to extend Breaux already after this season. Breaux is an incredible talent and could become one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Something the Saints really need.
Dec 6, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Kenny Vaccaro is one of the few bright spot from the Saints drafting over the last 5 years. Vaccaro was the Saints first pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Ever since being drafted, Vaccaro has been an important player for the team. He was one of the favorites for defensive rookie of the year, finishing third behind Sheldon Richardson and Kiko Alonso.
The second season was a struggle for Vaccaro, but despite being benched at times, he was still one of the most important players on defense. Then, in his 3rd season, Vaccaro got back to his old ways. He played with fire all season long and was arguably the best player on defense. Without him the already bad defense would have looked much worse than it really was.
Vaccaro is still playing on his 4-year $9,424,712 rookie contract. The deal counts $2,998,772 against the cap this year, but that number will go up to $5,676,000 in 2017. The Saints should look to extend Vaccaro as soon as possible. That will not only secure his future in New Orleans, but it could potentially also lower his cap hit in 2017.
Jun 2, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints free safety Jairus Byrd (31) during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Indoor Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Now this is really the big name in this position group. Jairus Byrd was signed by the Saints following the 2013 season to a 6-year $54,000,00 deal. This was the big splash no one thought the Saints could make, because of the limited cap space. Loomis made it happen, but now Who Dat Nation probably wishes it never would gone through.
Byrd has only forced three turnovers in this three years with the team. Injuries has held him back, but the bad play has been consistent. Byrd has not lived up to expectations and we could see the consequences this summer.
Byrd contract currently counts $10,900,000 against the cap and it would raise the dead cap by $18,900,000 if the Saints cut him right now. It obviously doesn’t make sense to cut Byrd at this point in time, but it could happen this offseason.
His cap hit will go up to $11,700,000, but the dead cap will go down to $8,000,000. This is still a lot, but it would free up $3,700,000 in cap space, something the Saints really could use to sign new players.
Byrd’s time in New Orleans seems to be coming to an end. Unless something miraculously happens this season, look for the Saints to cut Jairus Byrd and take the dead cap hit. It might just be worth it.