Cap Casualties Continue Sad March Out Of New Orleans
The housecleaning continues for the New Orleans Saints, who wish to lock up Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham to a multi-year contract while maintaining an overall payroll below the expected salary cap in the process. The latest casualties are WR Lance Moore and RB Darren Sproles. RB Pierre Thomas may be the next to fall victim by way of release or trade. In the mind of management, RBs Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson are prepared to lead the rushing attack, and Moore became disposable given the emergence of Kenny Stills and veteran Marques Colston's eventual return to form.
The departure of Moore was a logical move as he represented a $3.8 million cap hit. Once a prolific downfield threat for the team, Moore saw limited action last season in favor of Stills and his salary was too much for a receiver who shares time. During his illustrious nine years in New Orleans, Moore established himself as one of the best receivers in Saints history, ranking in the Top 5 in receptions and receiving touchdowns.
At the age of 30, Moore still has a few prime years left in him and will serve as a highly touted free agent receiver that will come at a discount for many teams to sign. With a resume consisting of over 4,000 receiving yards, 12.4 yards per catch and 38 TDs, this sure-handed veteran with playoff experience should have no problem filling the second or third WR slot on a team in 2014. His legacy in the Big Easy will be remembered forever and no moment will stand out more than his two point conversion in Super Bowl XLIV.
But exactly which team is a good fit for Moore?
I would think that the New York Jets would show interest in him. The Jets have had a cast of no names on their receiving corps the last few years with the exception of Santanio Holmes, who was just released. Therefore, the team is in need of a veteran presence. Another team who may offer Moore a short-term contract is the Detroit Lions. Their new offensive coordinator worked on the Saints coaching staff for years and the Lions could use a receiver to compliment Calvin Johnson. Always lurking in the market is the New England Patriots, who love their slot receivers and have been known to take gambles on older receivers, such as Randy Moss and Chad Johnson to name a few.
Sproles’ release was more of a surprise to many given the monstrous statistics he has put up in his three seasons with the Saints. Sproles had established himself as one of the best receiving backs in the NFL and was extremely effective at gaining yards after the catch. He may have even proven to be worth the $3.5 million he stood to earn this season, but his age and part time role were each a factor in his release. One thing Moore has in his favor is that he is one of the best slot receivers on the market right now. Therefore, he should be able to sign a contract in the ballpark of $2 million.
Waiting in limbo for his fate is Thomas, who just posted a career season. If he is to be released, Thomas - like Moore - will be highly touted by many. Standing to earn $2.9 million, Thomas would be playing a part time role as has been the case during his eight years with the Saints. Last season, Thomas eclipsed 1,000 all-purpose yards for the first time in his career and had a career-best 513 receiving yards. Thomas, 29, is at the age where RBs start their decline, which may be a factor in his potential departure as well. In addition, Robinson showed versatility and marked improvement as the season went on and the team is confident in his ability to step into a more permanent role.
Given that the market for rushers is rather thin this offseason, Thomas should be bombarded with offers from viable suitors. Aiding Thomas if he becomes a free agent is his impressive resume. Over the course of seven NFL seasons, Thomas has compiled over 3,500 rushing yards and more than 2,200 receiving yards. More impressively, he has averaged an outstanding 4.6 yards per rush.
Going forward, it seems the future of any Saints player not named Drew Brees or Jimmy Graham could possibly fall victim to offseason housecleaning.
All we know for sure in the end is that this team will look vastly different on the field in 2014.