The New Orleans Saints have ended their conflict with Jimmy Graham by signing him to a long-term contract extension. So much for that drama. The good news for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that this contract is going to be very expensive, which will worsen an already awful Saints cap situation.
Saints are signing TE Jimmy Graham to a 4-year, $40 million deal that includes $21 million guaranteed, per source familiar with deal.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 15, 2014
The Saints are in perpetual salary cap hell, because they can't stop pushing cap hits into the future. To illustrate, the Saints have just $1.6 million in salary cap space according to Over The Cap. To make matters worse, the same site estimates the Saints have $142 million committed to the 2015 season (third-most) and $132 million to the 2016 season, topping the league. The first year they'll have some breathing room is 2017, when nearly every relevant contract runs out -- including that of Drew Brees. And even then they'll have at minimum $12 million in dead money.
Of course, this may be manageable. They've made do with this situation in recent years, though it's certainly hamstrung them in free agency at times. And there's something to be said for consistently borrowing from the future to pay for the past, given a constantly rising salary cap. Finally, the $10 million per year they'll be paying Graham is significant -- but it's not ruinous.
So on the one hand, the Saints just signed one of the best tight ends in the NFL to a long-term deal. On the other hand, their salary cap situation is a complete disaster, and this will come back to bite them sooner or later. Let's hope it's sooner. Tomorrow, preferably.