Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley was placed on reserve/non-football-injury with a heart condition Monday, the team announced. He will miss the 2017 season, and could possibly be done for his career.
Fairley was coming off of the best year of his career last season with 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 16 games. Because of it, the Saints signed him to a four-year, $28 million extension this spring.
On June 3, it was revealed that Fairley had been away from Saints OTAs after medical tests showed he had a heart condition. Saints coach Sean Payton had said Fairley was getting a third opinion on the condition.
“The first one was one that advised that he shouldn't play football again,” Payton said. “The second opinion was a little different, and he's getting a third opinion or he's already gotten a third opinion, we're waiting on that opinion.”
Based on Monday’s news, the third opinion couldn’t have given much of a better outlook than the first two.
Despite the condition being a non-football injury, the Saints will still have to pay Fairley the other half of the $8 million on his contract, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
“If it's an illness that wasn't previously disclosed, the team can then say 'this is a non-football injury, we don't owe you anything' and can take back all of the money," Garafolo said on NFL Network's Inside Minicamp Live. "But in this case, he had this before. Teams have known about this going all the way back to the [scouting] combine in 2011. So any kind of attempt to take all of the money, that might get a little bit hairy there.”
The loss of Fairley is a hit to the Saints’ defense, which was 27th in the NFL last season. Aside from Fairley and Cameron Jordan, the pass rush wasn’t very effective, also ranking 27th in sacks. The Saints took one defensive lineman in the NFL draft this past year, Trey Hendrickson, who is an end out of Florida Atlantic.
The team will be searching for a replacement for Fairley, who may have played his last down of football.