New Orleans Could Make a Patrick Peterson Trade Work
On Monday, it was made apparent that Arizona Cardinals All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson requested a trade. Peterson’s cousin, former Florida State and NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden, stated that Peterson’s ideal landing spot is with the New Orleans Saints. It's worth noting that the Saints have an awful pass defense right now. Still, with just $1.8 million in cap space in New Orleans, compared to Peterson’s $11 million base salary, this seems unlikely on paper.
NFL cap situations cannot be trusted on paper, though. Cap situations can always be manipulated, even if it takes a coordinated effort on multiple levels. You can look at what Philadelphia has done over the last two years as an example of that.
To get Peterson in New Orleans, the Saints will almost certainly have to restructure the contracts of one (or all) of their three most expensive players: quarterback Drew Brees ($24 million cap hit), defensive end Cameron Jordan ($14.5 million cap hit) and left tackle Terron Armstead ($13.5 million cap hit). No one else on the team has a cap hit of over $10 million and only two have cap hits over $5.3 million. There’s really no other options for getting Peterson's salary in New Orleans other than restructuring their stars' contracts.
With that being said, here is an example of how this could work.
Currently, Brees, Jordan and Armstead are on multi-year contracts which slate them for yet to be paid game checks of $17.6 million over the remainder of the season (Week 8 to Week 17). In theory, the team could convert the difference between their weekly game checks ($600,000 for Brees and Armstead, $550,000 for Jordan) and the weekly veteran minimum ($59,706 for Brees, $46,471 for Jordan and Armstead) into signing bonuses, money that will still be paid out to them in 2018 (sooner even) but would instead be “prorated” over the cap over course of the remainder of their contracts.
Essentially, the team could turn that $17.6 million in game checks into $1.6 million in game checks and $16 million in new signing bonuses ("W8-W17 Difference"), which would only count $5.8 million ("Prorated Bonus in 2018") against the cap in 2018. That would save the Saints more than $10 million in cap space immediately, more than enough to pay the $6.5 million in game checks left for Peterson in 2018.
If New Orleans really wants to land Peterson, it would be possible. It just has to be coordinated. The bigger issue will be finding compensation for Peterson, as the Saints are out a first-round pick (used to trade up for defensive end Marcus Davenport) and a third-round pick (used to trade for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater) in the upcoming draft.
Unless the Cardinals are willing to settle for a projected late second-round pick for Peterson, with the Saints also being equally fine with not owning a top-100 pick at all in next year's draft, it's hard to imagine this trade going through on any other terms. Potentially, New Orleans could move Bridgewater for a second- or third-round pick to throw into the trade, but they would have to find a yet to be named trade partner before the trade deadline.
In short, the Saints can make the deal if several of their stars are willing to turn salary into bonuses and Arizona is willing to take a second-round pick for Peterson or a second-round pick plus the value of Bridgewater if New Orleans can find a suitor for him.