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Junior Galette's Release Is a Bold, Progressive Move for Saints, NFL

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystJuly 24, 2015

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Maybe, just maybe, we’ll look back on Friday, July 24, 2015, as the day human decency prevailed in the NFL. We’ll beam with pride and think that was when winning a game started to mean just a little less among team owners and executives, and ridding their franchises of deeply flawed players started to mean a lot more.

That happened even though, in this case, the player is a productive, highly paid and critical piece. Therefore, he's also a lucrative asset with drawing power to put rear ends in seats and money in pockets.

Or maybe the New Orleans Saints' decision to release outside linebacker Junior Galette, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport Friday afternoon, will amount to absolutely nothing.

Sep 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette (93) against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Vikings 20-9. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hing
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe a new team desperate for a pass-rusher will sign him, and the cycle of results trumping a core character problem will begin anew. Just as it did for Greg Hardy, the defensive end who will play meaningful snaps for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 after reaching a settlement with his former girlfriend to avoid a possible domestic violence charge.

But for now let’s bask in the glow of progress, because that’s exactly what Galette’s release is after a recent history of poor off-field behavior. The first indication of progress for both the NFL and Saints is a dollar sign.

Galette checked off each box for the Saints: He had the talent to fill a critical need and the paycheck to go with it. He had just recorded two straight double-digit-sack seasons, most recently finishing with 10 in 2014 along with two safeties. Just prior to that season he signed a four-year contract extension worth $41.5 million.

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As Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke notes, the Saints aren't walking away from this unscathed:

Chris Burke @ChrisBurkeNFL

Galette's release comes with a $12.1 million dead-money hit on the 2016 cap.

That sort of money and production often leads to leniency during dark times, and a thundercloud has hovered over Galette for much of 2015. In January he was arrested following a domestic violence incident at his home. The simple battery charges were later dismissed. But then in June, a 2013 video surfaced showing what appears to be Galette involved in a beach brawl.

We don’t have any context for what started the altercation in the video titled “Spring Break 2013 South Beach Brawl” (Warning: Video is NSFW). But it allegedly shows Galette removing his belt and striking a woman.

Sep 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette (93) against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Vikings 20-9. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hing
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints made sure the NFL was aware of the video and forwarded it to the league office, according to Evan Woodbery of the Times-Picayune. The footage made the NFL’s file on Galette even larger, as the January arrest was already under investigation.

Galette may have escaped criminal domestic violence charges, but that doesn’t mean he’ll wiggle free from a harsh ruling in the NFL’s court. A time not so long ago when the league often gave cases of domestic violence the slightest wrist tap looms large in the rearview. Now there’s a heightened sensitivity. And Galette is linked to a recent domestic violence incident along with his alleged involvement in a beach brawl two years ago that just came to light.

Yet even with all that in mind and Galette’s history of poor conduct, the Saints’ abrupt decision to move on right before July 29's training camp is jarring. Why? Let’s return to those dollars, and how many of them the team still owes Galette, per WDSU's Fletcher Mackel:

Fletcher Mackel @FletcherWDSU

Junior Galette's $41 mil contract included $23 mil guaranteed. Saints still on hook for $12.5 mil fully guaranteed as roster bonus this yr.

It feels like the Saints are annually in a deep pit of salary-cap despair. And now the monstrous $12.1 million in dead money Galette leaves for 2016 will keep that plunge going.

The Saints are only $3.2 million under the 2015 salary cap, and even without including the brick of Galette’s wasted money they're projected to be $7.9 million in the red for 2016, per Spotrac.

But none of that money mattered, which is what makes this move a true, shining beacon of hope for progress. The Saints were done tolerating the off-field Galette, even if the on-field Galette was a key cog for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after recording nearly a third of the sacks for the New Orleans defense in 2014.

The team had been considering its next move since the video surfaced, according to Lyons Yellin of WWL-TV in New Orleans. Finally the Saints decided that Galette’s talent can no longer hide his character flaws.

Lyons Yellin @LyonsYellin

The saints have been mulling this over for a while and exploring all their options after beach video of what looked like galette surfaced.

The NFL implemented a new policy to punish those who commit acts of domestic violence, making a six-game suspension the baseline. That was a fine first step, but it's only a measure to enhance optics until the tolerance of teams and their owners wears thin, and even the most talented, highly paid violators run out of employment opportunities.

So yes, we saw progress Friday July 24, 2015. Now let’s hope for more.

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