Derek Carr's Contract Will be a Tough Fit for the Saints

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Derek Carr’s Contract Will be a Tough Fit for the Saints, Even After Dropping Jameis Winston


Before being released by the Raiders the Saints were the favorite in the Carr sweepstakes, and despite some flirtations with the Jets and Panthers, Derek Carr is heading to NOLA. The Saints have their new QB. But the signing triggers another decision for the Saints, as well as a reasonably important question: How do they plan on making Derek Carr’s contract — specifically, the money — work?

Contrary to many predictions, Derek Carr got paid …

Carr’s new contract with the Saints is a four-year deal worth $150 million with $100 million in guaranteed money.

Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport have reported that Carr’s deal will give him $60 million guaranteed at signing and another $10 million guaranteed in year three. That money is vested after year one of the agreement.

New Orleans also gave Carr a no-trade clause in his new contract.

But it will take some next-level salary cap gymnastics, even for the Saints …

The Saints are $18.1 million over the salary cap today. Last month, New Orleans was $55 million in the hole, but they’ve already begun Mickey Loomis’ yearly kick-the-can challenge.

Here’s what the Saints have done over the past few weeks to make the Carr signing a possibility:

  • Converted $6.07M of safety Marcus Maye’s salary into a signing bonus.
    • 2023 savings: $4.86M
  • Converted center Eric McCoy’s $10M roster bonus into a signing bonus.
    • 2023 savings: $8M
  • Converted $12.92M of tackle Ryan Ramczyk’s base salary into a bonus.
    • 2023 savings: $10.34M
  • Reduced kicker Wil Lutz’s salary by $1.5M; incentive escalators added.
    • 2023 savings: $1.5M
  • Restructured the contracts of linebacker Demario Davis and tight end Taysom Hill.
    • 2023 savings: $12.72M

I could be missing something because they make so many of these moves, but this is what I had bookmarked. These moves result in a cap savings of roughly $37 million, which brings them to $18.1 million over the cap that OTC has listed at publishing.

New Orleans still has plenty of work to do to make this work. They can also restructure the contracts of Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore, which would clear up another $20 million. An Alvin Kamara restructure would also save $7M.

There’s another $27 million, which would put them at about $9 million under the cap.

Then there’s the Jameis Winston element …

With Derek Carr in tow, the Saints will move on from Jameis Winston. Releasing Winston opens up another $12.8 million in cap space for the Saints.

That moves them to roughly $22 million in cap space. I don’t know the yearly breakdown on Carr’s new contract, but his $150 million over four years puts him at $37.5 million per year. New Orleans is now about $15.5 million from that number. Somehow, I do not doubt that Mickey Loomis will, once again, figure it out. (We’ll get to that shortly)

But back to Winston. Injuries have marred Winston’s time in New Orleans. The veteran quarterback has played just 10 games in three seasons since arriving in New Orleans. When healthy, Winston has a 6-4 record and completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,103 yards, 18 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Winston has a 92.7 passer rating over that stretch.

Regardless of whether or not it’s fair, the Saints have made their decision at starting quarterback, and it’s not Winston. Winston will become a free agent at some point in the very near future because the Saints simply can’t afford to keep both quarterbacks.

But there’s more …

The Saints have a few other options to clear up money for the Carr contract and everything else they have to accomplish this offseason.

New Orleans can restructure safety Tyran Mathieu’s contract (which includes two void years). They can reduce his $8.9 million cap number to $4.5 million by restructuring his $7 million base salary. That would save the Saints another $4.3 million.

New Orleans can also restructure guard Andrus Peat’s contract or cut him. Peat was a first-round pick of the Saints in 2015 but has missed 28 games since the start of the 2018 season. His cap number for 2023 is $18.37 million.

If the Saints restructure Peat, they’ll save almost $8 million against the cap but will also balloon his cap number to more than $20 million in 2024, the final year of his deal. Cutting Peat all together would be a savings of $11.82 million if they do it post June 1.

Those two moves would bring the Saints to roughly $31.3 million (not including Carr’s cap hit, which will surely be back-loaded to make this all work).

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.