Guilbeau: Saints’ Voodoo Economics Keeps Working Like Magic Amid Salary Cap Issues

The New Orleans Saints are suddenly out of the cellar in the Spotrac website that tracks contracts and salary issues.

Last week at this time, they were No. 32 with a whopping $72 million to shed to get under the projected salary cap for the 2022 season.

And just like that, general manager Mickey Loomis did it again by subtracting that by $26.2 million with contract restructures of star wide receiver Michael Thomas and franchise pillar offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk with more such moves likely to come.

Loomis and vice president of football administration Khai Harley, a salary cap expert, converted converted $14.5 million of Thomas’ compensation for this year and $18,206,608 of Ramczyk’s into signing bonuses, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

Loomis and compay have been doing this type of thing for years – robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak. One day Peter and Paul may storm the Saints’ facility, but they’ve been saying that for years. And the Saints consistently stay players in free agency, which starts on March 16.

Loomis expertly crunched the numbers of former quarterback Drew Brees’ top paying deals for the last decade, among other players, to keep the Saints one of the most consistent winners in the NFL since 2009.

The best news about all these numbers is not a number though. It is the fact that Thomas, arguably the best receiver in the NFL since his rookie year in 2016, will be back. He missed all of 2021 with an ankle injury because of some curious decisions regarding surgery by Thomas. The Saints organization could have done a better job there, but the bottom line is it is looking very much like he will be a Saint for years to come.

Had New Orleans released him before June 1, which was a popular belief amid various disagreements he was having with the team, it would have cost the Saints $24.2 million. And the Saints would be minus their best weapon, who was sorely missed during a 9-8 season amid an historic rash of injuries in 2021 that led to New Orleans missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Now, the Saints have to find a quarterback unless they keep Jameis Winston, who is suddenly a free agent target by several teams. Keeping Winston and backup Taysom Hill will likely be the best bet, though the Saints may have a shot at Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round of the April 28 NFL Draft, where New Orleans picks at No. 18 – as of now. Loomis could move up from there, which he and former head coach Sean Payton have tended to do.

If that means Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, the Saints could have the next Brees.

The defense was Super Bowl worthy last season and has been in recent seasons and will be again, particularly with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen recently becoming head coach.

The issue is the offense. It took some prodding from Allen, but Pete Carmichael agreed to stay on as offensive coordinator after others were considered. Carmichael has been a student of Payton since 2006 as quarterbacks coach when Payton took over. Carmichael was pass game coordinator in 2007 and ’08 and became offensive coordinator in 2009 when the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Carmichael took over play calling for Payton for most of 2011 when Payton experimented with the idea of not calling plays. And the Saints had one of the best offensive years in NFL history. Carmichael has called plays here and there ever since. Maintaining the Payton system with him was probably Loomis’ and Allen’s best bet.

Allen chose to split the defensive coordinator title between defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and secondary coach Kris Richard. The co-plan often does not work, but in truth, Allen will remain the coordinator for the most part, and he has been one of the best since taking that position in 2015. Nielsen is on track to be the next Allen.

Payton will undoubtedly be a huge loss, but the Saints are literally banking on what has worked in the past throughout their organization as well as stability in the coaching ranks.

Now, draft a quarterback or keep one or both.

Winston was just starting to blossom under Payton and Carmichael when he was injured on Halloween night. Suddenly, a Winston-Thomas connection or a someone-Thomas connection looks promising.

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Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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