This offseason isn’t going well for the New Orleans Saints. Injuries have hit the team’s
offensive line, and the Saints are still trying to get last season’s injured players healthy.
New Orleans got bad news on Monday, June 26, when defensive tackle Nick Fairley was placed on season-ending injured reserve. The defensive tackle will miss the entire 2017, and more importantly, his career could be over.
Fairley came into the league after doctors diagnosed him with an enlarged heart at the 2011 NFL Combine. The Detroit Lions drafted him in the first round, but he never lived up to his high draft selection.
After four less-than-successful seasons, the Lions and Fairley parted ways. The former Auburn University star rejuvenated his career with the St. Louis Rams before signing with the Saints.
Last season, Fairley ended up being one of the biggest surprises of the New Orleans defense. His play during the 2016 season made him an important free agent for the team this offseason.
New Orleans gave Fairley a four-year contract in March worth $28 to $30 million with a $14 million signing bonus and $8 million guaranteed. During his standard physical before signing the contract, Saints doctors urged Fairley to see a specialist concerning his enlarged heart.
But Fairley passed his team physical in March and signed his contract.
The first doctor reportedly told Fairley to discontinue his football career. Fairley then got a second opinion that reportedly opened the door for him to continue playing.
Those first two opinions led to a third opinion, of which results are unknown, but that forced New Orleans to shut Fairley down this season. Under NFL rules, the Saints don’t have to pay the $1 million in salary they owe him this season because his injury isn’t football related.
However, the Saints could have to pay the defensive tackle his signing bonus and guarantees, and if New Orleans decides not to pay Fairley, it could lead to a dispute between the two sides.
Fairley and the Saints could reach a settlement, which would mean the defensive tackle would gain his release. That would open the door for another team to sign him, but it would depend on how serious his heart condition has become.
Fairley missing the rest of the season could open the door for the Saints to sign a free agent, depending on how Fairley’s contract is handled, or a rookie could make this team. New Orleans’ defense took a step forward only to fall two-steps behind.
No matter what happens between the two sides, the Saints defense takes a hit. That doesn’t help a team that is stuck in a 7-9 rut and wasting the last few seasons of Drew Brees’ Hall of Fame career.
New Orleans is trying to rebuild a defense that lags behind the team’s high-powered offense. Poor play and injuries have plagued the unit during this current subpar run.