Saints rework contracts with Marques Colston, three others

The New Orleans Saints continued to work toward getting down to the projected 2013 salary cap of about $121 million on Wednesday by restructuring the contracts of four players.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis confirmed via email Wednesday night that wide receiver Marques Colston restructured the five-year, $36.3 million contract he received from the team last March. The deal was first reported by CBSSports.com.

ESPN.com, citing a league source, also reported that guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs and linebacker David Hawthorne had also helped to reduce the cap in advance of the new league year that begins March 12.

The restructuring of the four allowed the Saints to shave about $10.5 million off a reported $20 million overage on the projected cap before linebacker Curtis Lofton became the first player to restructure his deal on Feb. 15.

ProFootballTalk.com reported Colston’s $4.5 million base salary was reduced to $1.7 million, with the other $2.8 million being converted to a bonus to be spread over the final four years of the deal. That reduced his cap hit from $6.6 million to $4.4 million.

According to ESPN.com, Evans accepted a $4.16 million bonus to bring his base salary down to $3.4 million and reduce his cap hit by $3.12 million.

Grubbs and Hawthorne, who both signed with the Saints during free agency last spring, took bonuses that can be pro-rated over the life of their deals.

Grubbs received a $4 million bonus that reduced his cap hit by $2.9 million, while Hawthorne converted a $3 million roster bonus that would have all counted against this year’s cap to a pro-rated bonus for a savings of $2.6 million.

The Saints also cleared nearly $2 million off the books last week when they released tight end David Thomas and waived cornerback Johnny Patrick.

The Saints are still around $5 million over the projected cap, which means they’ll have to restructure more deals or release players to create cap space to sign players when free agency begins March 12.

CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora also reported that defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma — with a combined cap figure of around $23.1 million — have been offered discounted deals to remain with the team.