The team with the most 2015 salary on its books is exploring ways to clear some of that salary and get under the cap before next Tuesday’s deadline, which means a veteran leader may be on the trade block. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), the Saints are shopping linebacker Curtis Lofton as a potential trade chip.
Lofton, 28, has been one of the most dependable and durable pieces on the Saints’ defense in recent years, starting all 48 regular season contests for the team since arriving in New Orleans in 2012. In 2014, he racked up 145 tackles to go along with a forced fumble. However, while his stats looked solid on the surface, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded him as a bottom-five inside linebacker, out of 60 qualified players.
Even for a potential suitor that wants to add Lofton as an anchor in the middle of its linebacking corps, his contract will complicate a trade. The former second-round pick is due a $4.5MM roster bonus on March 12, which is part of a $9.25MM cap number for 2015. The deal also runs through the 2017 season, though the following years are a little more affordable, with cap hits between $7-8MM.
If the Saints don’t find a trade they like for Lofton, it’s possible he’ll be back in New Orleans on a restructured contract, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com predicted last week. Converting his upcoming roster bonus to a signing bonus would give the club a little relief for the 2015 league year.