Top 10 Salary Cap Hits Facing the 2021 Saints

A look at the some of the top salary cap hits the Saints face in 2021, which will lead them to make some interesting and difficult decisions.
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There's a bit of excitement and nerves that come with the future of the New Orleans Saints. While Drew Brees hasn't made an official retirement announcement, it all seems like it's coming, which makes 2021 a really interesting time for the team. From 2006-2020, it's really never been a question as to who will lead the team on the field. Sure, there's been some offseasons where we had to wait on Brees, but everyone thought he was coming back. That doesn't seem to be the case this year.

Like last year, we reference Spotrac to get all the top salary cap charges going into the new season. The Saints are currently projected to be anywhere from $95-105 million over the cap, which hasn't been set in stone yet, but early projections believe it to be around $180 million. The Saints have $284.2 million allocated currently. Here's a look at the top figures New Orleans faces in 2021 and will have to maneuver around.

Drew Brees, QB

Cap Hit: $36.15 million ($25 million base + $5.75 million signing bonus + $5.4 million restructure bonus)

Notes: On the surface, this looks like a nightmare. However, Brees could save the Saints some money depending on how things shake out. CBS' Joel Corry put this into perspective not long ago. This would help the team save nearly $24 million.

Brees has the NFL's fourth-largest 2021 salary cap number at $36.15 million. Assuming Brees retires, he and the Saints should agree to reduce his $25 million 2021 base salary to $1.075 million, his 2021 league minimum salary, in order for $23.925 million cap relief to be gained instantly. The Saints would need to carry Brees on the roster until June 2 to keep the $11.5 million in bonus proration relating to his voiding 2022 and 2023 contract years from becoming a 2021 cap charge.

At this point, Brees would be placed on the reserve/retired list and his $1.075 million base salary would also come off the books for additional cap relief. Instead of taking the full $22.65 million of dead money, a salary cap charge for a player no longer on a team's roster, in 2021 by placing Brees on the reserve/retired list prior to June 2, there would $11.15 in 2021 and $11.5 million in 2022 this way.

Cam Jordan, DE

Cap Hit: $18.9 million
Base Salary: $11.9 million

Notes: Jordan's cap number is the second-highest on the team, as he accounts for 10.6 percent of the overall figure. His 2021 salary fully guarantees on March 21st. There's a great chance that his contract gets restructured to make room. He's certainly someone New Orleans will need to rely on to get the pass rush going in the new season.

Michael Thomas, WR

Cap Hit: $18.8 million
Base Salary: $12.6 million

Notes: Thomas is coming off a very disappointing campaign after being 2019's Offensive Player of the Year. He was shutout for the first time in his career in the Divisional Round against the Bucs. He's reportedly having multiple surgeries on his ankles during the offseason, and should be good to go in 2021. Of course, people have been reading into a lot of his social media postings and believe he could be the subject of trade talks. That remains to be seen, as New Orleans would be on the hook for a good portion of dead money if that were even a discussion.

Terron Armstead, LT 

Cap Hit: $16.287 million
Base Salary: $7.65 million

Notes: Armstead has the 6th-highest cap hit among all left tackles going into 2021. This is technically the final year of his deal, as he's set for free agency after the upcoming season and some of his money is on the books in 2022 and 2023. New Orleans could tweak some of his base salary to help make space, or try to extend him. He's actually coming off one of his best seasons with the Saints, missing only two games due to COVID-19.

Taysom Hill, QB

Cap Hit: $16.159 million
Base Salary: $10.72 million

Notes: This figures to be an interesting decision for the Saints. Hill counts as 9 percent of the cap space for New Orleans going into the new league year. For now, he's going to get a shot to be the starting quarterback for Sean Payton. Jameis Winston could return, but that figures to be a move made after the Saints handle a few contracts. Cutting Hill would save the team $5 million, but would charge them $11.159 million in dead money.

The Rest of the Top Hits

  • Janoris Jenkins, CB - $14.2 million ($10 million base)
  • Kwon Alexander, LB - $13.4 million ($12.55 million base)
  • Andrus Peat, LG - $11.6 million ($9 million base)
  • Ryan Ramczyk, RT - $11.06 million (projected 5th-year option)
  • Demario Davis, LB - $10.8 million ($2.7 million base)
  • Marshon Lattimore, CB - $10.2 million (projected 5th-year option)
  • David Onyemata, DT - $10 million ($7 million base)

We'll tackle a few ways the team can make space and potentially handle this offseason. It's certainly not as bad as everyone makes it out to be, but the work is cutout for Mickey Loomis and the front office.