For years, the Saints have been at the forefront of the league with respect to maneuvering themselves into cap compliance. The 2024 offseason figures to be no different in that respect, with restructures expected to be a frequently-used tool.
New Orleans has a veteran-laden roster and has elected on several occasions to avoid a hard financial reset by instead creating immediate cap space at the expense of future years. That has left the team with a number of difficult decisions, but general manager Mickey Loomis has managed to keep the core intact while also being active in spots during free agency. When asked about this offseason, he confirmed a signficant shift in operations will not be coming.
“I don’t know that change is the right word,” Loomis said, via NOLA.com’s Matthew Paras. “We just have to be conscious of making up some ground in the next few years, and there are different ways to do that. I’ve said this [to the media] before, sometimes you have to look beyond the numbers and look at how many guys are under contract, what’s the roster, what are your core players… There’s just a lot of different variables.”
Currently projected to be well over the cap for the new league year, the Saints have begun the process of restructuring some of their most lucrative contracts. That includes cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who ESPN’s Field Yates notes had much of his 2024 base salary converted into an option bonus. The move created just over $11MM in cap space for this year. Lattimore’s re-worked pact also has a de-escalator for offseason workout participation, as detailed by Yates’ colleague Katherine Terrell and Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football.
As Underhill further notes, Lattimore’s option bonus does not take effect until one week before the start of the 2024 campaign (subscription required). That could create a window of opportunity for a trade, something which would come as a surprise given the four-time Pro Bowler’s importance to New Orleans’ defense. Lattimore is under contract through 2026; like many Saints, though, his pact includes multiple void years.
The same is true of quarterback Jameis Winston. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports Winston agreed to add void years to his pact which will take effect shortly after the new league year begins in March. He is still on track to reach free agency, but the move will allow for his cap hit to be spread over multiple seasons. As Terrell notes, Winston was due to carry a cap charge of $10.6MM in the event he did not re-sign. The 30-year-old has been with New Orleans since 2020, and he could be retained this spring in a backup capacity.
Designating him a post-June 1 release would also be a viable option, however. The new Winston pact includes massive bonuses in the 2025 and ’28 void years, Terrell details, but a post-June 1 cut would create a modest dead cap charge of $3.87MM in each of the next two years.
Like Lattimore and Winston, several other Saints players will soon have significant adjustments made to their contracts as New Orleans strives to get under the 2024 cap ceiling. All teams must do so before March 13, but as usual the Saints will have one of the steepest challenges to achieve compliance.