Is Deuce out of the woods yet?

Deuce McAllister (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The good news? New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister will be back in 2008, according to published reports. The bad news? Speculation about McAllister's future in New Orleans could become a yearly ritual, given his contract. Saintsinsider.com has the scoop on Deuce's contract inside.

The New Orleans Saints probably did the right thing by agreeing to keep running back Deuce McAllister for at least one more season. The Saints retain their all-time leading rusher. McAllister gets more time to prove he can be productive despite two knee surgeries in 2007. And fans can continue to root for McAllister.

NFL.com reported that the Saints paid McAllister his $1 million roster bonus, but agreed to a framework of a deal that will pay McAllister most of the $4.7 million he's due — if he plays at his pre-injury level, according to Adam Schefter. It almost sounds as if it's a pay-for-play deal.

Saintsinsider.com obtained McAllister's contract information from a league source and can report that before the restructuring McAllister was due a $3.6 million base salary in 2008, with a $2.2 prorated signing bonus, a $1 million roster bonus — the sticking point in recent negotiations — and a $100,000 workout bonus. Reportedly McAllister was due to cost them $6.74 million in cap space.

It now appears that the Saints will get some sort of cap relief from this deal, but it's not clear how much.

Now, cap space isn't an issue in New Orleans this year. The Saints, according to a league source, are $23.3 million under the cap. So shelling out another $1 million to McAllister really wasn't the issue. It was whether McAllister could still play and was worth his total salary. The Saints will give him a year to figure that out, it appears.

Then, in 2009, this offseason drama is likely to have a revival because releasing McAllister makes more sense next year, at least financially.

Let's assume that the Saints and McAllister made few adjustments to the remaining four years of his contract (he is signed through 2012). If the Saints had released McAllister on Tuesday, the prorated signing bonus for his contract would have accelerated to a $5.4 million cap hit, which the Saints would have had to absorb in 2008. That's $200,000 more than the base salary the Saints would have saved in 2008. That's not good business.

Now, should the Saints release McAllister after the 2008 season, it makes more fiscal sense. McAllister's accelerated cap hit would only be $3 million, well below his 2009 base salary of $5.2 million (McAllister is due to count $7.2 million against the 2009 cap under his current deal). Plus, by releasing McAllister next season they'll also save $400,000 in workout bonuses and approximately $26 million in base salary from 2009-2012. Again, that's assuming the basic framework of McAllister's deal is unchanged.

It might seem strange to talk about releasing McAllister when the Saints appear to have a bundle of cap space, but it really isn't. McAllister will be 30 next year, the age at which elite backs begin to wear down. There's plenty more tread on McAllister's tires after several knee surgeries, both in college and the NFL. And the microfracture procedure McAllister had during the offseason is a scary proposition for any athlete in any sport.

Some teams are willing to release players even when they have the cap space and the player is still productive. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released both Greg Spires and Kevin Carter before the start of free agency, even though the pair performed well in 2007 and the Bucs had plenty of cap space. The reason? Both were in their mid-30s. In releasing the pair, the Bucs cleared another $7.1 million in cap space to pursue free agents. They even re-signed Carter to a more palatable deal later, given his age and production.

That's a potential scenario that faces McAllister, even if he plays well in 2007. Will his production justify remaining one of the league's highest-paid running backs, especially when Reggie Bush is already on the roster, has the Saints tied into $26 million in bonus money and will likely cost bigger money down the line? Could the Saints cut him, save the money and then re-sign him to a deal that better suits where McAllister's talent is now? Or will the Saints cut ties with their all-time leading rusher after the 2008 season, whether his comeback succeeds or not?

Those are the important questions that will be answered next winter. For now, Saints fans, McAllister and the franchise are happy they aren't talking about the franchise's all-time leading rusher playing for someone else this fall.


Matthew Postins is the publisher of Saintsinsider.com. He is an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association.

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