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A View on How the Saints Will Deal with the Salary Cap Issues in 2012

Football Outsiders is out and doing Division by Division looks at the salary cap and how it affects each team around the league.

To see about the entire NFC South – click HERE

Here’s the Saints breakdown, and some of the background on how they think things will play out for the team.

Estimated Cap Space: $20-$25 million

Unrestricted Free Agents (16): Drew Brees, Jeff Charleston, Marques Colston, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Aubrayo Franklin, John Gilmore, Tory Humphrey, John Kasay, Turk McBride, Pat McQuistan, Robert Meachem, Carl Nicks, Tracy Porter, Courtney Roby, Shaun Rogers, Leigh Torrence

Restricted Free Agents (3): Jonathan Casillas, Chase Daniel, Ramon Humber

After missing the 2010 season with a foot injury, Casillas started five of 13 games in 2011, totaling 43 tackles and three sacks. With Jo-Lonn Dunbar an unrestricted free agent, an original round tender ($1.26 million) on Casillas can be expected. Daniel has been the No. 2 quarterback behind Brees the last two seasons and will certainly be back, perhaps at a second- ($1.927 million) or first-round ($2.742 million) tender.

Franchise Tag Candidate: Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Carl Nicks would all warrant the franchise tender, but only one of them can receive it. Brees ranked first in DYAR and second in DVOA in passing for 46 touchdowns and an NFL single-season record 5,476 yards. Given his offensive production and importance to the community, he’s not going anywhere. A multi-year extension worth $18 million per year –- the same average per year Peyton Manning and Tom Brady received on their latest contracts -– would certainly be warranted, but there’s always the issue of guaranteed money. The quarterback tender would be worth around $14.374 million in 2012. Two seasons ago, the Saints signed Jahri Evans to a seven-year, $56.7 million contract extension. Nicks has been to back-to-back Pro Bowls and will be looking for over $8 million per year on a long-term extension this offseason. Nicks’ tender would be worth nearly $9.5 million. Colston ranked in the top 10 in DYAR and DVOA for the second time in the last three seasons and, despite never once making a Pro Bowl, has been one of the most productive receivers in the NFL over the last six seasons. Like the offensive line tender, the cost of using the franchise tag on a wide receiver is worth around $9.5 million.

Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: The Saints could clear up space by restructuring the contracts of Will Smith ($7.15 million total compensation, $9.15 million cap number), Jonathan Vilma ($5.5 million total compensation, $7.6325 million cap number) and Sedrick Ellis, who added $1.5 million to his base salary and is scheduled to earn $6.066 million with a $7.566 million cap number in the final year of his contract.

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