With the release of Brandon Browner Friday morning, it became clear that Delvin Breaux is the future for the Saints at cornerback — not that there was ever much doubt.
As things currently stand, Breaux is among the best bargains in the NFL. The CFL import is currently under contract for $525,000 next season and $615,000 in 2017. Given New Orleans’ cap situation, there’s no reason to tinker with those figures in the near future (nor can they be touched until after next season).
But the Saints will soon have to consider what exists beyond the new future. And what it will take to retain Breaux should soon come into focus depending on what the New England Patriots do with cornerback Malcolm Butler, who might be the most comparable player to Breaux in the NFL.
Butler seemingly came out of nowhere and hooked on with New England as an undrafted player one year prior to Breaux landing in New Orleans.
Both players are key parts of their defenses (Butler played 98 percent of New England’s snaps, and Breaux played 88 percent) and are considered to be among the better young coverage corners in the NFL.
With two seasons under his belt, the Patriots can now sign Butler to an extension and will likely explore those options this offseason. When Butler signs a new deal, it will likely set the market for Breaux, who should begin having contract discussions after next season.
Though, it’s possible one or both teams decide to ride out these situations. Butler will be a restricted free agent after next season, meaning the Patriots could decide to slow play it with him. The same could happen with Breaux though both teams will likely get a better deal if they decide to do the deals early.
So what will these negotiations look like? Here’s a look at the different tiers of cornerbacks in the NFL, with an assist from Jason Fitzgerald’s OverTheCap.com:
-Tier 1: $13.5-14 million average per year
Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Joe Haden
-Tier 2: $10-10.5 million APY
Byron Maxwell, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr
-Tier 3: $9-10 million APY
Leon Hall, Sam Sheilds, Aqib Talib, Brandon Flowers, Vontae Davis
-Tier 4: $8-9 million APY
Jason McCourty, Chris Harris Jr., Kareem Jackson, Antonio Cromartie, Brent Grimes, Chris Culliver
-Tier 5: $7-8 million APY
Jonathan Joseph, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tramon Williams
-Tier 6: $6-7 million APY
Alterraun Verner, Buster Skrine, Cortez Allen, Davon House
Butler and Breaux’s agents, when the time comes, will likely target the second or third tiers. But it seems much more likely both players will end up in the fourth tier if they sign early and are prevented from hitting the open market. Having restricted free agency to hold over them will also likely help each team get a more favorable deal.
For the Saints, this is a long way off and not something to be overly concerned about right now. But if the Patriots make a move on Butler, it will be worth keeping an eye on since it will set the market for Breaux.