New Orleans SaintsDownload App

New Orleans Saints: The 2012 Defense Broke a Record and the Bank

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 09:  David Wilson #22 of the New York Giants carries the ball and scores his third touchdown of the game on December 9, 2012 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
Tyler RabornContributor IIIJanuary 10, 2017

The 2012 New Orleans Saints defense set the NFL record for most yards allowed in a single season—and broke the bank in the process

The Saints defense allowed 7,042 yards in 2012—shattering the Baltimore Colts' 31-year-old record of 6,793 yards.

Head coach Sean Payton and newly hired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan have already been hard at work to improve the Saints defense. New Orleans signed cornerback Keenan Lewis to a five-year, $25 million deal. Analysts praised the signing, including, which gave it an "A" grade.

However, it's unlikely Ryan plans to stop with just one good signing. Expect the Saints to deal out a little more cash to bring in a few more players to fit Ryan's new 3-4 scheme. Fortunately, the Saints have some flexibility with the salary cap due to Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma taking pay cuts.

Yet if the Saints could afford to use the pay cuts of Smith and Vilma to sign a player to an average of $5 million per year, just how much were Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, and the other starters on the worst defense in NFL history getting paid?

Position Player Average Salary
DT Brodrick Bunkley $5 million
DT Sedrick Ellis $6.7 million
DE Will Smith $10.2 million
DE Cameron Jordan $1.9 million
OLB David Hawthorne $3.8 million
MLB Curtis Lofton $5.5 million
OLB Jonathan Vilma $7.1 million
CB Jabari Greer $5.3 million
CB Patrick Robinson $1.9 million
S Roman Harper $6.3 million
S Malcolm Jenkins $3.8 million
  Total = $57.5 million

                                                                                                                                                        The 2012 Saints' starting 11 players on defense were making a total average salary of $57.5 million per year. Whether $57.5 million is a reasonable price depends on the product purchased. The table below shows the New Orleans Saints' defensive statistics for 2012.


Category Statistic NFL Rank
Total Yards Allowed in 2012
7,042 No. 32
Points Allowed Per Game
28.4 No. 31
Passing Yards Allowed Per Game
292.6 No. 31
Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game
147.6 No. 32


As per the information in the table above, New Orleans paid approximately $57.5 million for the worst defense in the NFL. Compare that to the 2012 Seattle Seahawks, whose defensive stats are in the table below.


Category Statistic NFL Rank
Total Yards Allowed in 2012
4,899 No. 4
Points Allowed Per Game
15.3 No. 1
Passing Yards Allowed Per Game
203.1 No. 6
Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game
103.1 No. 10


As is indicated in the table above, Seattle had one of the best defenses in the league in 2012. But how much did it pay for its defense's performance?


Position Player Average Salary
DT Brandon Mebane $5 million
DT Alan Branch $3.5 million
DE Red Bryant $7 million
DE Chris Clemons $7.3 million
OLB Leroy Hill $1.6 million
MLB Bobby Wagner $1.1 million
OLB K.J. Wright $630k
CB Richard Sherman $560k
CB Brandon Browner $430k
S Kam Chancellor $500k
S Earl Thomas $4.2 million
  Total = $31.8 million


As shown above, Seattle's starting 11 players on defense had a total average salary of $31.8 million. 

So here's a side-by-side comparison of the Saints and Seahawks defenses in 2012.


New Orleans Saints   Seattle Seahawks
$57.5 million Total Average Salaries $31.8 million
7,042  Total Yards Allowed 4,899
28.4 Points Allowed Per Game 15.3
292.6 Passing Yards Allowed Per Game 203.1
147.6 Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game 103.1


Essentially, the Seattle Seahawks paid an average of $25.7 million less than the New Orleans Saints in 2012 for a much better defensive unit. 

But hindsight is 20/20.

Fortunately for Rob Ryan, he's got nowhere to go but up.

All contract information was provided by

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices