Posted February 12, 2014

Saints part ways with Will Smith, three others in attempt to stockpile cash

New Orleans Saints, NFC South
Will Smith has been with the Saints since 2004; Jonathan Vilma since 2008. (Paul Abell/AP)

Will Smith has been with the Saints since 2004; Jonathan Vilma since 2008. (Paul Abell/AP)

The Saints have cut veteran DE Will Smith, in the least surprising move of the early NFL offseason, along with cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Roman Harper, completing a trio of moves that frees up around $17 million in cap space for 2014.

More than $11.5 million of that comes from Smith, whose bloated contract still will leave $2.3 million in dead money on the Saints’ books next season. The 32-year-old Greer still had two years remaining on his deal at an average of $4.1 million per season, but those base salaries were not guaranteed and Greer tore his ACL in November. Likewise, Harper was signed through the 2015 season. His performance and advancing age made it hard for the Saints to justify keeping him around.

Jonathan Vilma, another key to New Orleans’ Super Bowl-winning defense in 2009, will be headed out of town, too — he’s an unrestricted free agent and the Saints have decided to let him walk.

Should that occur, nary a soul on the remaining defensive two-deep depth chart would have any ties to New Orleans’ Super Bowl title from the 2009 season (Malcolm Jenkins, also on that team, is a free agent). The Saints have attempted to slowly rebuild that unit in recent seasons, especially in light of a 2012 campaign that saw them finish dead last in team defense. Greer, Harper, Smith and Vilma all appear to be on the downside of their careers.

“I have coached and been around a lot of great players and I put these four guys right there at the top,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said in a statement. “Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan all represent and epitomize what we look for in our players. These are disciplined, smart, tough and team-oriented individuals. They all played an important role in helping this team and this city win its first Super Bowl and they have all enjoyed multiple playoff appearances and wins.”

Smith’s release has been a long time coming. While he did record 67.5 sacks from 2004-12, he was an awful fit for the new 3-4 defense that New Orleans implemented prior to the 2013 season. Smith then suffered a torn ACL in late August, which landed him on injured reserve for the duration of the year.

Harper also struggled to stay healthy, a knee injury limiting him to just nine games. And his playing time dwindled when he was able to be on the field — rookie Kenny Vaccaro secured one starting safety spot and Jenkins slid over to win the other gig. Rafael Bush stepped in as well, once Vaccaro suffered an injury.

Wednesday’s cuts should move the Saints below the projected 2014 salary cap limit; before, they were sitting an estimated $12 million over. There may be more transactions on the way in the coming days, with WR Lance Moore and RB Pierre Thomas possibly on the chopping block.

Much of the reconfiguring will be undertaken in hopes of locking up star tight end Jimmy Graham to a long-term deal. Graham’s currently on track to be a free agent, although the Saints surely would use the franchise tag on him before that occurred. Doing so would come with its own drama: Graham has said (as most players do) that he does not want to be tagged, and if he is it’s likely that he will argue he should receive WR money as opposed to TE money.

A potentially hectic offseason is officially underway in New Orleans, and several links to the Saints’ successful past are now looking for new homes.

23 comments
Steve Phillips
Steve Phillips

Hopefully the Broncos will take the hint with the likes of Champ Bailey as it would free up 10 million and they can pick up some help sorely needed in depth on the defensive side. I agree their should be a salary schedule like in many other businesses where players fit into the stipend schedule and their retirement and healthcare is taken care of at the end of their careers.

These multimillion contracts for a single year are ridiculous.

Dirty-J
Dirty-J

long term,  this will help the saints, but presently losing talent like this defensively is gonna hurt them....

friggenwacko1
friggenwacko1

Wouldn't it be great if there was a cap on individual player salaries?  No player can make more than $3mil per season.  Then the NFL could stop raising ticket prices every other year.

seamillguesthouse
seamillguesthouse

If the Saints were smart .they would cut ties with Drew Brees

TL1961
TL1961

Sportsfan,


You do realize that when they sign a veteran to a seven year deal in order to spread out the signing bonus, that the vet and his agent are aware of this as well, right?


The player knows it is a 4 year contract spread over 7. They only focus on the guaranteed money - which is often quite high. So the player gets his guaranteed money, plays a few years, and has a chance to sign with someone else. Not exactly trickery.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

Wouldn't it be great if the NFL teams had to keep and honor the contracts they gave out like in baseball and basketball?


They give out these large contracts KNOWING they will cut the player(s) as they get old, when their game declines, when their cap hit becomes too large.


If they had to make deals that they had to honor, then it would take work by the front office.


Then, they should not be allow to renegotiate existing contracts to push payments out into the future.


Pay it out as the CONTRACT stipulated it would be when it was signed by the team/G.M.


So many fans get mad at players who hold out and want more money (well many players don't deserve it).  But for the players who ARE playing better than their contracts, if the team doesn't pay them, they get screwed.  Because when they do get their next contract eventually, the team simply cuts them when the salary gets too big or they aren't playing up to their contract.


The team is happy to underpay the players when they are over playing their contract but they get to drop kick them to the curb when they aren't performing.


The teams would NOT have to sign these guys to 7 yr deals or even 5 yr deals.  


I'd love to see the NFL have to really care and plan for salaries than to simply cut people to get under the cap.  That doesn't take cap management.  When they see their over, drop kick some to the curb, no planning required.


If they're over the cap, they get their high paid player(s) to redo their contracts so they may get cap room.  Again, that doesn't take planning or cap management.  They didn't plan their cap well and that's why they went over.  They use get out of free jail cards by cutting players and redoing other contracts.

JosephBagadoughnutz
JosephBagadoughnutz

sound familiar:  white men, surrounding black men at the combine, deciding which black man they want.  10 years later, black man is released.


thanx, abe

David32
David32

Anotherr clueless individual who didn't bother to pay attention to the facts, just the spin from Goodell.

3M_TA3
3M_TA3

Like Sal Tessio said to Tom Hagen in the Godfather, it was only business.

donald5
donald5

@Dirty-J  Will Smith didn't play a down last year.  Jonathan Vilma played 1 game and got one total tackle.  Roman Harper missed almost half the season and only started when Kenny Vacarro was out.  Greer is the only one who could possibly start for another team and he is a 32 year old CB coming off of a torn ACL.  


I don't see it as a huge hit.

Mark112
Mark112

@seamillguesthouse  

You better watch what you say; if Saint Drew finds out he'll get mad and hold out for another raise.

donald5
donald5

@Sportsfan18  The contracts are signed by the players and the teams with the full knowledge that there is only a portion that is guaranteed.  The players willingly signed their contracts with it in mind.  If they wanted their contracts to be set for 5 -6 years, they could do it that way.  They just don't.  Nobody was tricked.  It is the way their contracts are set up and they, as well as their agents, are completely aware of how these contracts are structured.  It is all semantics.  Just because stupid fans can't look at the terms and know that 7 years really only mean 3 years with and option for the rest with escalating salaries over the remaining years, doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it.  Do some research.  Figure out what the terms mean.  The teams and the players know it.  Just because you can't grasp how it works, does not mean it is wrong.  The players sign a CBA that sets up the salary structure in the NFL.  Nobody is getting screwed.

David32
David32

Another "believer"in Goodell's bountysham boondoggle......

donald5
donald5

@JosephBagadoughnutz  Spare us your modern day slavery garbage.  The real slaves in this world would slap you for being so ignorant of history.

AllThingsConsidered
AllThingsConsidered

@David32  And you another denier. Saints fan? 


Whatever the actual amount of evidence  - maybe not as much as Goodell had claimed - doesn't mean their was no Bounty scandal. I'm a Niners fan, and for me the audio footage of your wonderful D.C. Greg Williams before the divisional playoff game is proof enough. By the way, Williams did not fight his ban one bit. Wonder why? 

David32
David32

Forgot to answer your question - a lifetime ban from the NFL is over in one year and you are going to ask why Williams didn't fight back? The answer is pretty obvious.

David32
David32

nola70118 is right. Plus, the "kill the head" comment is pretty common - Herm Edwards even had it painted on the wall of the Chiefs facility when he was head coach there. Every piece of "evidence" that Goodell trotted out was discredited as distortions of the facts up to outright lies. Did you actually look up anything yourself, or did you just go by the NFL storyline?

nola70118
nola70118

If you're really a Niner fan, you'd acknowledge the fact that the Saints had zero penalties that game and played maybe the cleanest game in the history of the NFL. Meanwhile, Whitner's concussing players left and right. You represent the Niner fans well...pure trash.