Saints save cap space with deals

Advocatefile photo by ELIOT KAMENITZSaints running back Pierre Thomas dives in for a touchdown as  Buccaneers free safety Dashon Goldson attempts to make the stop last season. Show caption
Advocatefile photo by ELIOT KAMENITZSaints running back Pierre Thomas dives in for a touchdown as Buccaneers free safety Dashon Goldson attempts to make the stop last season.

A two-year contract extension Saints running back Pierre Thomas officially signed on Wednesday saved New Orleans $1.33 million in salary cap space for 2014, according to the website OverTheCap.com. Meanwhile, reportedly, a restructuring of cornerback Keenan Lewis’ contract saved the Saints another $1.2 million in cap space.

Therefore, Thomas’ extension and Lewis’ restructure cleared about $2.5 million in cap space, of which the Saints had $3.09 million on Thursday, according to the NFL Players Association website.

First, Thomas’ extension contained $4 million in new money, $2.1 million in fully guaranteed salary and included a $1.245 million signing bonus, the cap analysis site OverTheCap.com said. It dropped his 2014 base salary from $2.5 million to $855,000, which helped create the savings.

Before the extension, Thomas was supposed to count $2.9 million against the salary cap in 2014, the last year of his contract. But with the extension, the site said, Thomas — who had his 2014 pay cut in the process — will count $1.57 million against the cap this year: that’s his base salary of $855,000, one-third of his signing bonus ($415,000) and a $300,000 roster bonus.

In 2015, Thomas’ cap number is $2.565 million: a base salary of $2.1 million, one-third of his signing bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus. In 2016, his cap number is $2.765 million: a $2.2 million base salary, one-third of his signing bonus, a $100,000 roster bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus.

It was announced the Saints and Thomas had agreed to the extension on March 12.

As for Lewis, his 2014 cap number fell from $4.55 million to $3.35 million after restructuring his playing deal, USA Today’s Tom Pelissero and ESPN’s Mike Triplett reported Thursday. Lewis also got a $4.4 million signing bonus as a part of the restructure, so his pay wasn’t cut.

According to the players union site, Lewis’ 2014 base salary dropped from $3.3 million to $1 million; his 2015 base salary dropped from $4.1 million to $1.8 million; his 2016 base salary dropped from $4.45 million to $4.25 million; and his 2017 base salary dropped from $4.95 million to $4.75 million.

In other similar matters, some numbers are in for the one-year contracts recently given to backup linebacker Ramon Humber and wide receiver Joe Morgan, who re-signed with the Saints in unrestricted free agency. Morgan’s base salary for 2014 is $495,000, and Humber’s is $730,000, not which excludes a $65,000 signing bonus.

Lorig in ‘great situation’

Just because new Saints fullback Erik Lorig has never taken a handoff in the NFL doesn’t mean he hasn’t done many other useful things on the field.

He played defensive end in college at Stanford for three seasons. He’s excelled at protecting passers or ball carriers while blocking out of the backfield or lining up as a tight end. He’s held his own running pass routes.

And that, Lorig believes, is the primary reason he’s gearing up for a fifth year in the pros despite being the third-to-last pick in 2010 draft.

“I just know that when teams analyzed my tape they saw that I took a lot of pride in blocking and doing really anything my team asked me to do, whether that was pass protecting, running routes or blocking as a tight end, (blocking) in the backfield as a fullback,” Lorig said on Wednesday’s edition of SportsTalk with Deke Bellavia and Bobby Hebert on WWL Radio 870 AM.

Lorig told his hosts he was in a “great situation,” and there’s no question about it. After spending his first four NFL campaigns with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, who drafted him 253rd overall out of Stanford, Lorig this week signed a four-year contract with the Saints in free agency. The deal is reportedly worth up to $4.8 million and included a $1 million signing bonus.

Aside from the payday, Lorig went from an organization that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 to one that’s won a Super Bowl and has been to the postseason four times since 2009.

Lorig does not have a single rushing attempt in the NFL. But he’s caught 30 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown.

He’s blocked for two 1,000-yard rushers: LeGarrette Blount (2010) and Doug Martin (2012). Tampa Bay lost Martin to a season-ending shoulder injury six games into 2013. The Bucs nonetheless rushed for more than 100 yards per game without him, and Lorig received a considerable amount of credit for that.

“The kind of approach I took with football is anything they asked me to do, I just want to do it ... at an elite level,” Lorig said to Bellavia and Hebert. “Certain teams like that, and they see that and now I’m in a great situation.”

Lagniappe

Former Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester — who has the most career punt return touchdowns (13) in NFL history and most punt return yards (3,241) among active players — agreed to terms Thursday on a free-agent deal with the Falcons, the Saints’ NFC South rival. Reportedly, it’s for three years ... Brian de la Puente, the Saints’ starting center since 2011, wrapped up a free-agent visit with Washington apparently without agreeing to a deal. Triplett reported that de la Puente was mulling his options Thursday, which included Washington, the Saints and other teams. ... Former Saints receiver Lance Moore, released earlier in March, appears to have wrapped up a free-agent visit to Pittsburgh without agreeing to a deal on the spot, per a number of reports on Thursday.