Last week, the NFLPA announced that the league's 2014 salary cap number will be $133 million. That is several million more than most estimates had the new number reaching, and over $9 million more than the 2013 salary cap. Having only recently chopped and changed their way under the cap, the New Orleans Saints are one of many teams who will be extra satisfied with this news.
The Saints now find themselves nearly $8 million under the cap. Having shed the contracts of veterans Jabari Greer, Roman Harper and Will Smith last month, the team created a small amount of wiggle room to get under the old cap. The club is also poised to see multiple contributors from last season's team walk once free agency begins in earnest next week, and has the looming issue of recently franchise-tagged Tight End Jimmy Graham and his status to deal with in the weeks and months ahead. RB Pierre Thomas
While splashing cash on top tier impending unrestricted free agents such as Jairus Byrd, Eric Decker and Aqib Talib remain pipe dreams, the Saints could use the slight extra cushion to focus their attention on retaining unheralded contributors such as Parys Haralson, Robert Meachem and Zach Strief. Representatives from each of those players have already met with Saints brass to discuss the possibility of the players suiting up in black and gold again next season.
The team could also think twice about cutting Pierre Thomas. Thomas has been rumored as a potential cap casualty for several weeks, but his $2.9 million salary is quite palatable for a player who has been such a key contributor in his career with the Saints. The team would be able to recoup all of that money if they were to cut him, but Thomas could offer them more value on the field than they would get from another slight assist to the financial coffers.
The Saints now find themselves in more favorable conditions than the likes of the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, two hopeful contenders still over the cap. They may not have the cap room that teams like the Oakland Raiders or Cleveland Browns can offer, but any little bit will surely help this offseason, as the team puts its focus on value and smart choices in regards to the make up of its roster. With a potential negotiating nightmare set to ensue with Jimmy Graham and his agent Jimmy Sexton, the Saints still have their own fires to put out. While still close to the cap limit, the team can take a breath and prepare to beat those bushes this offseason, with another playoff run in the crosshairs.