Serious cap problems coming as soon as 2013 didn’t stop Mickey Loomis from making a massive investment in the team’s star punter Thomas Morstead. Morstead’s contract extension is good for 6 years at $21.9 million, although only just less than $7 million is guaranteed. Unless his contract gets cut short, then, he’ll be a Saint for the next 7 years. Morstead’s contract is the second highest in NFL history for a punter, second only to Shane Lechler of the Raiders. Lechler is a 7 time Pro Bowler, while Morstead came closest to his first time going last year as a 1st team alternate. Had the 49ers made the Super Bowl, Morstead would have made his first trip.
I’m torn about this news to be 100% frank and honest.
Morstead is a phenominal punter, and a dual threat as a guy that led the league in touchbacks on kickoffs last season. In fact, he broke the NFL record for most touchbacks in a season, though the NFL rule of putting the football back to the 35 yard line didn’t hurt. There is no question he is one of the very best in the league, he’s young and getting better, and he’s an all around great guy that’s a total plus to have in the community. For all those reasons I support this move and then some. But then there’s that little birdy reminding me of the Saints’ cap woes. When you’re financially tight you have to pick and choose where you invest, and you can’t keep everybody. You would think star punter is probably the first guy you replace for “suitable and 5x cheaper replacement”. Not to minimize the value of an elite punter by any means. Morstead’s net average on punts was over 44 yards last year, good for second in the entire league. I can’t emphasize enough how useful his kickoff ability helps, too. He’s afforded the Saints the luxury of having John Carney and John Kasay during his tenure, guys that are very accurate from within 50 yards, but have almost no distance on kickoffs. As good as those two guys were for the Saints, imagine how much worse they would have been tiring their old legs out every game by kicking off. There’s no doubting the dude is good and brings tremendous value to the team.
At the end of the day though, again, $21.9 million over 6 years is an exhorbitant amount of money to pay any punter. For years I’ve mocked NFL teams that make this same kind of investment. That’s $3.65 million anually over the life of the deal. Remember the good old days where a punter/kicker maybe $1 million a year was a huge jackpot? I just feel like the Saints could get a guy that’s “fine” for a third the price, and have Garrett Hartley do a more than admirable job on kickoffs in his stead. In a perfect world keeping Morstead is an absolute no brainer. But it’s not a perfect world and the Saints are staring at cap hell next season.
We’ll just have to hope Mickey knows what he’s doing and he’ll find a way to make it all work. Granted, his track record leaves me no room to doubt him. All that being said a huge congrats to Thomas Morstead. While I have doubts that the Saints can afford this, I have zero doubts that he absolutely deserves it and will prove a sound investment with his performance on the field. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.