Looking at just a few of the high-figure contracts the team possesses indicates that restructuring or outright cutting certain players is a necessity to get under the projected 2013 salary cap and field a team capable of winning the Super Bowl.
Free-agent linemen Jermon Bushrod and Sedrick Ellis are coming off the books prior to any restructuring. But Jon Vilma—owed $4.8 million in 2013—and Will Smith—owed an astounding $9 million in 2013—are scheduled to resume their careers in black and gold in 2013.
Their respective contracts are the most obvious to be slashed. Even so, the team would remain $2-3 million off from clearing necessary cap space just to field a team in 2013 (the NFL is not like the NBA or MLB where a team can go over the salary cap and pay a luxury tax).
Releasing Will Herring, and his $1.5 million owed in 2013, would help. Zach Strief and his nearly $2 million contract would finally get the team into the green. David Thomas, and the $1.5 million he is owed, would allow the Saints to look into signing one or two bargain-buster free agents.
Trading players still working under their rookie deals, such as Mark Ingram or Malcolm Jenkins, would do little good other than opening up $1-2 million of space. Even releasing a veteran like Chris Chamberlain would net the Saints little in terms of open cap space.
(All contract information courtesy of spotrac.com/nfl/new-orleans-saints/yearly/)
It is fair to say, though, that cutting Vilma and Smith are necessities.
Here’s the best guess possible as to how the team spends any remaining money after these stated cuts have been made.