White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. – The myriad reasons that the New Orleans Saints considered when deciding whether to release outside linebacker Junior Galette ultimately was shaved down to one: In the best interests of the team, the team's leading sacker for the last two seasons, who last September signed a lucrative, four-year contract, had to be jettisoned less than a year later.
"That's a hard decision," General Manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday. "There are a lot of variables involved, and the financial aspect is certainly one of them. But ultimately we made the decision that the best thing for our team going forward was to part ways with Junior.
"He did a lot of great things for us over the last five years, a really productive player (who) came a long way, from being an undrafted free agent to being a starter on our team. We haven't forgotten that. So it was a very tough decision, but it's a decision that we made with the best interests of our team at heart."
Said Coach Sean Payton: "As a coach, you want to see your players do well, you want to see them have success. You're pulling for them to do well. It's like a teacher that hands out tests and they obviously want to see students do well, get good grades. We wish him well and yet, there's the part of you that gets frustrated that you weren't able to help make that happen while he was here.
"It's not easy and yet, at the same time, the mistake magnified (by) three is pretending that it doesn't need to be done if you feel like it needs to be. Ultimately, it became a decision about the team."
And so, the team made the decision to release Galette, who recorded 22 sacks the last two seasons and last year was voted by his teammates to be defensive captain.
"All of these bigger contracts come with risks, and they come in different forms," Loomis said. "Generally, you're looking at a period of time, 'Hey, if we get past year two, year three or year four – whatever it is – then that risk is really mitigated.' So it's unusual to have that come out after one year.
"I've got to look at this circumstance and say, 'Hey, what could we have done a little differently? What were the red flags that we missed, or that I missed?' And learn from it. We have to look at ourselves with a critical eye and that certainly includes myself in that group."
It was with a critical eye that the Saints approached this offseason, Loomis and Payton said. The piercing look would entail an evaluation of every organizational crevice, including self-evaluation.
During that process, the Saints made the decision to release Galette, whose emotional play made him a fan favorite early in his Saints career.
"It's disappointing, it's frustrating," Payton said. "You want to see him do well and you know it can impact your team. At the same time, we felt it was in the best interests of our team."
"We were very disappointed that that transpired," Loomis said. "But it is what it is. We can't turn the clock back, we have to make decisions with our eye going forward and that's what we've done.
"There was a variety of things that impacted. Ultimately, we're trying to make the decision and say, 'What's best for our team going forward, what gives us the best chance to be successful?' And that was the decision we made."
That said, Loomis and Payton said the Saints are confident that Galette's production can be replaced. Among the players expected to help ease the absence are outside linebackers Anthony Spencer and Hau Kikaha, a rookie who led the nation with 19 sacks for Washington last season.
"(Galette) had a lot of production, so we're going to miss that," Loomis said. "But yet, we feel like we have some players that can pick up that slack and that's what training camp is for, for us to find out what we have and how we're going to make up for that production and who that's going to be.
"We're equipped and accustomed to dealing with adversity and overcoming it. So I'm pretty confident that we can do that."
Photos from opening press conference with Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis of the 2015 New Orleans Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon. Photos taken by Richard Crank (New Orleans Saints photos)