Not often is a pass rusher in his prime released after back-to-back productive seasons. Even more rare is the release of a top player less than a year after he received a four-year, $41.5 million contract.
Yet, in the case of Junior Galette, a falling out with the New Orleans Saints was in the cards after a tumultuous 2014 was followed by a domestic violence allegation in January. So much so that the Saints spent the last six months discussing a possible trade or an outright release.
Saints head coach Sean Payton informed Galette of his impending release on Friday, and the pass rusher has been less than cordial since. What started with Galette telling the Times-Picayune that the Saints made "the worst call they've ever made" devolved into an explosive Twitter rant.
In the series of tweets posted on his girlfriend's account, Galette accused Payton of showing up drunk to team meetings, said he doubts the Saints win more than six games this season and had plenty of insults to go around.
Domestic violence investigation ongoing
Galette was arrested for simple battery with domestic violence, but he maintained he was the victim, saying he and a cousin forcibly removed a woman from his house.
Charges were dropped in February, although a lawsuit for abuse was filed. That incident has not yet been resolved due to a lack of cooperation from the plaintiff.
Still, that wasn't the only allegation. A video surfaced in June of a melee at a beach, showing a man striking a woman with a belt.
Galette's lawyer claimed the man wasn't his client, but photos from the player's Instagram seem to indicate otherwise. League investigations are ongoing, and while it seems unlikely that Galette will face legal punishment, that hasn't stopped the NFL from levying discipline in the past.
Trouble even before that?
Teammates voted Galette a 2014 captain. However, the Times-Picayune reported multiple brawls broke out during the season among the defensive lineman, going beyond the typical scuffles between teammates.
The fights were more than simple pushing and shoving matches, the sources said. They were all-out brawls the likes of which some in the locker room had never seen.
Team chemistry was non-existent.
Galette was reportedly involved in a fistfight with teammate Brandon Deaderick before a preseason game and didn't do much to help a team culture that was turning to discord.
One former teammate said the turning point was the contract.
A former Saints teammate told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune of Galette: 'He stayed focused long enough to get paid, then the real Junior came out. Sad.'
The transformation from hard worker who earned a spot as an undrafted free agent into a locker room cancer is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. Celebrations of Galette's release from former teammates, including Jonathan Vilma, would indicate that he wasn't universally loved before last season, though.
Karma came calling https://t.co/SkOWrDyLWp
— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) July 25, 2015
What now for the Saints?
Losing one of your best defensive players isn't good. Especially when only one team allowed more yardage than you in 2014.
But if any team could use the cap space, it's the Saints. Cutting ties frees up a little, although it's indicative of the trend that got the Saints in trouble in the first place.
The Saints will have a $12.1 million dead-money charge for Galette, making him the third-highest paid player on a team he isn't even playing for. Grantland broke down the problematic trend for the Saints, who are paying large amounts to departed players like Jimmy Graham, Ben Grubbs and Curtis Lofton.
But for the immediate future, the Saints have to replace a player who racked up 22 sacks in his two seasons as a starter.
Cameron Jordan had 20 sacks over the same span and will be asked to anchor the line, but pass rushing ability will be hard to come by.
The Saints signed Anthony Spencer, a veteran who once earned a Pro Bowl bid with 11 sacks in a season for the Dallas Cowboys. However, he has recorded half of a sack in the last two seasons and suffered a torn ACL in 2013.
The better hope falls on the shoulders of Hau'oli Kikaha and Davis Tull, the team's second- and fifth-round picks, respectively. Pass rushers take time to develop, and expecting double-digit sack production from either rookie is a lot to ask.
What's next for Galette?
Discipline could be on the way, and his Twitter rant wasn't the best career move, but he's still a 27-year-old pass rusher who is very good at bringing down quarterbacks.
During his rant, Galette told a user doubting the restart of his career to "see #GregHardy." While modeling your career after the actions of Hardy isn't the best way to go, there is some truth. The NFL is quick to forgive a player who can be as valuable as a top-flight pass rusher.
There's a chance a newly motivated Galette could be at his best in a new setting. What he shouldn't expect is another $40 million contract anytime soon.
It's doubtful that any team is going to want to hitch its trailer to a player so dangerous to team chemistry. Short-term, prove-it contracts are what Galette should expect to see.