Dead money piles up for Saints

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NEW ORLEANS — Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to remember those recently departed members of the New Orleans Saints, and, while they may be gone, they will not be forgotten … this coming NFL season and perhaps beyond, as long as their dead money counts against the team’s salary cap.

A moment of silence, please, for …
OLB Junior Galette ($12.1 million)
G Jahri Evans ($5.1 million)
LB David Hawthorne ($2.26 million)
DT Brodrick Bunkley ($1.613 million)

And there are 10 other “deadheads,” bringing the team’s current “dead money” account to a staggering $22,331,847, most by far in the NFL and certain to go up if veteran cornerback Brandon Browner is indeed released as he so stated on Twitter.

Still other signed players are not out of harm’s way and could find themselves on the street either outright or if they decline to restructure as in the case of Evans, a 10-year veteran and original member of coach Sean Payton’s first draft class in 2006.

Dead money is the price of doing business. That said, Evans’ “dead money” is one thing. And while $5.1 million is a significant hit, he at least earned his keep during the bulk of his stay in New Orleans. Galette’s “dead money” is quite another story; a bad business decision from the get-go with double-digit millions being thrown at a young, undrafted player who proved to be irresponsible, immature and incapable of justifying his contract.

General manager Mickey Loomis was burned big time and Galette’s alleged indiscretions continue to haunt this team because of the hefty financial investment made to him.

Then, there is the issue of “dead weight” on a roster. And while there is no specific category devoted to this area in the salary cap, it, too, can become a destructive dynamic and negatively impact a team’s ability to function over time.

Two examples:
— Browner played this season, literally speaking. But he certainly didn’t justify his three-year, $15 million contract of which $7.775 million was guaranteed, unless, of course, he was being paid by the penalty flag . Oft-injured linebacker Dannell Ellerbe contributed much more bang for his buck in his reduced role (six games).
— Safety Jairus Byrd played in 16 games last season, registering 36 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery in the second year of a six-year, $54 million contract that features $26.3 million in guarantees, including an $11 million signing bonus. The 2014 season turned out to be a total bust because of injuries.

Team officials are banking Byrd eventually will earn his money, betting on the come if you will. If not, he, too, will join the dearly departed who are currently residing under “dead money.”

It’s one thing to overpay pedestrian fullback Erik Lorig (four years, $4.8 million including $1 million signing bonus) and gamble on over-the-hill cornerback Champ Bailey ($500,000 signing bonus). It’s quite another to miss on Junior Galette, Brandon Browner and, until proven otherwise, on Jairus Byrd.

Business mistakes are commonplace in professional sports. They are made all the time. However, the good GMs — and good coaches who fancy themselves as talent evaluators — keep their mistakes to a minimum.

Those who don’t ultimately pay the price and join the list of dearly departed.

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Brian Allee-Walsh

Brian Allee-Walsh

sportsNOLAtv//USA Today//Biloxi Sun-Herald

Allee-Walsh joined in November 2009 after spending 32-plus years with The Times-Picayune, the last 23 years of his tenure covering the New Orleans Saints and NFL on a full-time basis. Prior to that, Allee-Walsh worked as the Public Relations Director for the Triple A New Orleans Pelicans (1977). A native of Seattle, Wash., the 64-year-old Allee-Walsh grew up in Indianapolis, Ind. He graduated from Brebeuf Jesuit High SchooI (Indianapolis) in 1970 and Indiana University in 1975 with a B.A. in Journalism. Allee-Walsh is married to Jennie, a native New Orleanian, and graduate of Isadore Newman School and Indiana University….

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