Could the door be closing on another New Orleans Saints championship? It has only been five seasons since Sean Payton and Drew Brees led the Saints to a Super Bowl victory against Peyton Manning and the Colts, but that team is almost unrecognizable in comparison to the one that could be fielded next season.
There is always a lot of turnover on NFL rosters, and that has obviously been the case with the Saints. If the season started today, there would only be 13 players remaining from New Orleans’ championship team. That being said, the season doesn’t start today and there are still a lot of decisions to be made.
As of now, the Saints are sitting at about $13-15 million over the salary cap, which is sure to jump $6-11 million higher when the team places the franchise tag on Jimmy Graham. The debate over whether Graham should be paid as a tight-end or wide-receiver doesn’t just affect his paycheck, it is going to go a long way in determining how many other key contributors New Orleans will be able to bring back.
Retaining Graham is a given. He is one of the top offensive weapons in the NFL, and is as important to the Saints success as anyone not named Brees. Nonetheless, there’s no denying that his new contract will bring along some negative consequences.
There are four vets from the Saints Super Bowl run who are virtual locks to makes the team’s roster next season: Brees, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston and Thomas Morstead. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess as to who could be a salary cap casualty.
Losing members of your Super Bowl roster does not mean that you are no longer a Super Bowl contender, but having a large chunk of your salary cap tied up into two players, Brees and Graham, definitely hurts. Not to mention that the NFC is currently filled with young, defensively dominant teams. If the salary cap doesn’t hurt the Saints championship aspirations, then maybe the Seahawks, 49ers or Panthers will.
Mickey Loomis, the Saints general manager, and Sean Payton have proven before that they can maintain a contending roster through adversity, but this may be their greatest test yet.
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