The New Orleans Saints will release outside linebacker Junior Galette, according to numerous NFL sources.
Galette, who inked a multi-year contract extension with the team just last year and had agreed to restructure that same deal in March, has been under investigation by league officials due to two violence-related incidents. Galette was arrested in January for a domestic incident at his home. Last month, a video surfaced of a man believed to be Galette appearing to strike a woman with a belt two years ago. He and other unnamed teammates were also implicated in a civil case regarding sexual assault in February.
Coach Sean Payton recently expressed optimism that Galette, who has been rehabilitating from an offseason pectoral injury, would be available for training camp. Galette has missed most of the team's offseason program due to the injury, and his release may become official on Monday when players report for pre-camp physicals.
An undrafted free agent in 2010 out of Stillman College, Galette became a key player for New Orleans, transitioning from a role player into a major contributor on the Saints' defense over the last five years. He flourished in 2013, his and the team's first season under the stewardship of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, recording 12 sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries. Following that season, Galette was rewarded with his four-year, $41.5 million extension. The Saints regressed in 2014 --particularly on the defensive side of the field-- but Galette still managed to record 10 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. One of the better edge defenders in the game, Galette was able to generate consistent pressure, achieving the second-highest 4-3 DE pass rush grade according to Pro Football Focus.
The move will leave New Orleans with a void to fill in that department, as the team's defense was unable to consistently get to the quarterback as a unit. Veteran Anthony Spencer, who spent time working in front of Galette during minicamps and has familiarity with Ryan's scheme, will look to contribute, though he has been bothered by knee injuries in recent years. The likes of Spencer, Cameron Jordan, and youngsters such as Kasim Edebali, Ronald Powell and rookie Hau'oli Kikaha will look to help pick up the slack in the front seven of Ryan's 3-4 base scheme. Kikaha, the team's 2015 second-round draft pick out of Washington, was PFF's top-rated pass rush edge defender after the 2014 NCAA season.
As for the financial implications of this move, New Orleans stands to lose a significant amount of money. The Saints are currently on the hook for about $12.5 million in converted roster bonuses and a $3.7 million signing bonus payment. The team is staring at over $12 million in "dead money" which would count against the 2016 salary cap. Since Galette's release is likely related to the string of off-field events, the Saints may attempt to reclaim some portions of the money owed, though they would be heavily challenged by the player's union. The most immediate effects of his departure, however, are likely to be felt on the field.
Originally from Haiti, Galette started his collegiate career at Temple before transferring to Stillman after he was suspended by the Owls. He recently expressed his desire to remain with the Saints, but the team is understood to have been frustrated with his off-field actions and there have been rumblings about a possible split dating back to before the NFL Draft in May.
The Saints' players will travel to West Virginia next week for the start of training camp.