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Sean Payton Admits Tough Decisions Will Be Made To Shed Salary

We’ve discussed the Saints cap situation several times in the past few months, but HC Sean Payton confirmed that tough decisions will be made in the coming weeks so that they can address free agents like TE Jimmy Graham while also filling roster holes.

“The most challenging part of your job as a coach, and I share that with Mickey or anyone that has been with an organization as long as we have been, going on year nine, is some of the tough decisions that have to be made with regards to your cap with the ability that you possibly can sign Jimmy Graham,” Payton said in an interview with Fox Sports 1 on Friday, via Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The Saints are still projected to be over the cap by close to $12 million, which means plenty of salary will need to be shed in the coming weeks. Teams have already begun to release veteran players this past week, so it seems very likely that we’ll start to even more moves like this next week.

“It’s very easy to say ‘you are certainly going to get this done’ but you have to understand there is a budget here,” Payton said. “That’s the challenging part. You are going to read these names that have already come across the ticker from Atlanta last week (the release of cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas) and we will be no different.

Holder lists: OLB Will Smith, S Roman Harper, WR Lance Moore DT Brodrick Bunkley, CB Jabari Greer and RB Pierre Thomas as players who could be on the chopping block.

Releasing Smith seems like a forgone conclusion given that they stand to gain $11.5 million in cap space with just this move. There has also been early speculation that Moore and his $5.07 million base salary is unlikely to be back at that price.

The Saints not only need to be cap complaint, but will need to have enough cap space available in the event that they need to franchise Graham, and even that could be a challenge based on the fact that he is expected to content that he should qualify as a receiver and not a tight end.

We have Graham listed as the No. 1 player in our Top 50 Free Agents list.