Five New Orleans Saints Cut Candidates

Saints Cut Candidates

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the New Orleans Saints are well above the salary cap and need to do some serious roster shuffling prior to the start of the 2023 league year. After going all-in during the final few years of the Drew Brees Era, the bill has finally come due, as the team is currently $57 million over the salary cap. The Saints have a few obvious cut candidates that won’t be around next year, but clearing that much money won’t be easy, and they’ll have to make some hard decisions in the coming months.

For the sake of this exercise, please note that all cap numbers come via Over the Cap. Also note that this list will not include bubble players like Eno Benjamin

Top Five New Orleans Saints Cut Candidates, Ranked

1. Michael Thomas

The most obvious name on this list, the New Orleans Saints will almost assuredly cut Michael Thomas before the start of the league year. Thanks to his restructured contract, Thomas already lowered his cap number this year, but in doing so, he gained a $31.75 million roster bonus for 2024 that becomes fully guaranteed on March 17th. There is no way the Saints (or any team, for that matter) would want to guarantee that type of money to a player that hasn’t consistently stayed on the field in over three years.

2022 proved that Thomas can still be an effective part of a passing game when healthy, but the Saints are in no position to make that wager. By designating him a post-June 1st cut, New Orleans can save an additional $1.365 million in cap space.

2. Jameis Winston

The New Orleans Saints quarterback situation is a dismal one, but it doesn’t appear as though Jameis Winston is the answer to their problems. After a semi-promising 2021, Winston spent the majority of the 2022 season riding the bench after Andy Dalton never relinquished the starting job. Even with Dalton heading to free agency, it’s hard to imagine a world where head coach Dennis Allen gives the job back to Winston. The former first-overall pick is at his best when he’s driving the ball down the field with aggressive throws, and that’s just not the offense the Saints want to run.

If the Saints cut Winston normally, they can save $4.4 million against the salary cap. However, if they designate him as a post-June 1st cut, that savings jumps up to $12.8 million. It’s important to note that teams can only designate two players as post-June 1st cuts, and Michael Thomas will be one of those two, so there is a chance they just cut Winston without any special designation.

3. Tre’Quan Smith

The Saints do not have a proven receiver outside of Chris Olave, but the lack of depth at the position won’t be enough to save Tre’Quan Smith. The former third-round pick finished the season with just 19 receptions for 278 yards and one touchdown, with most of that production coming in the Week 3 loss to Carolina. New Orleans desperately needed somebody to step up opposite Olave, and Smith simply wasn’t up for the task. Smith’s release frees up $1.9 million in cap space, so this should be an easy decision for the organization.

4. James Hurst

There are worse left tackles than James Hurst out there, but there are a lot of better ones too. While his versatility is definitely a plus, he might not be worth the $6.76 million cap hit, especially when the Saints can save $4.7 million by moving on. While this would be a hard decision from the organization, it’s definitely one they could make if they believe they could sign someone like Isaiah Wynn for similar money and put him back at his natural left tackle position.

5. Wil Lutz

Wrapping up this list of Saints cut candidates is their longtime kicker, Wil Lutz. Justin Tucker is the best kicker in football, and the next 15-20 closest guys are pretty much interchangeable. Wil Lutz is definitely in that range, and he’s the type of player that generally brings a reliable presence to a volatile position. However, after only hitting on 74.2% of his field goals and showing some serious issues from 40+ yards, perhaps the team feels it’s time to get younger. Of course, if they decide to go this route, they’d also save $3.7 million against the cap, which is a big number for a non-elite kicker.

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