4:51pm: The Saints have officially issued a press release announcing that Smith, Harper, and Greer have been cut. The team also won’t re-sign Vilma, according to the release.
“These were not easy decisions to make,” said Saints GM Mickey Loomis in a statement. “Since we acquired them, Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl…. However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014.”
4:48pm: The Saints will also release cornerback Jabari Greer, according to Florio (via Twitter). The Saints could create about $3.18MM in cap savings by cutting Greer, but it’s not possible the amount will be lower than that, since he could be eligible for $1MM+ in injury protection, as Rapoport explains in a pair of tweets.
4:34pm: NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport confirms (via Twitter) that Harper has been informed the Saints have released him.
4:18pm: Today’s list of NFL transactions didn’t include any from the Saints, so it looks like potential cap casualties have at least earned another day on the roster. Still, cuts are expected to come this week. According to Triplett (via Twitter), the Saints have informed Smith that he’ll be waived. Meanwhile, Harper sent out a thank-you tweet to Saints fans, suggesting that he has also been told he’ll be released.
9:11am: The Saints are expected to release a handful of veteran players to increase cap flexibility, and those cuts could begin as soon as today, a league source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (Twitter link) echoes that report, with both reports identifying safety Roman Harper and defensive end Will Smith as two potential cap casualties for the team.
As Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com details in his latest 2014 salary cap update, only one team (the Cowboys) has more money committed to ’14 salaries than the Saints, who are currently $13MM+ over the projected cap for next year. Waiving Smith represents the best way to immediately clear nearly that entire deficit — in the last year of his contract, Smith has a cap number of $13.9MM, which could be reduced to just $2.35MM in dead money by releasing him.
As for Harper, after starting nearly every game for the Saints in the previous six seasons, he was limited by injuries in 2013, and was ineffective in his limited playing time. The cap savings won’t be as significant for the Saints if and when they waive Harper, since the veteran still has $3.69MM in bonus money on the final two years of his deal, but the club could still clear $2.18MM in space by cutting him.
Florio notes in his report that a return to New Orleans for free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma appears highly unlikely. The 31-year-old has been plagued by injuries, which limited him to just one game in 2013, and Vilma’s recent comments about having to share a locker room with a gay teammate aren’t likely to help his free agent stock much either.