The Saints have released tight end Coby Fleener, a league source tells Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (on Twitter). The timing of the move is curious since $3.4MM of his base salary became guaranteed in February. The Saints, in theory, could have saved $3.2MM against the cap by releasing him months earlier.
Fleener finished the 2017 on injured reserve due to a concussion and his 2018 salary was guaranteed for injury. It’s possible that Fleener was not medically cleared by his guarantee date in February, which would have prevented New Orleans from shedding his salary. Fleener signed a five-year, $36MM free agent deal with New Orleans in 2016 that was supposed to keep him under control through the 2020 campaign.
Before last year’s concussion, Fleener had not missed a game since his rookie season, suiting up for all 16 of the Colts’ contests from 2013-15 and each of the Saints’ games last season. Last year, he was on the field for eleven games before a big hit from Rams defensive back Blake Countess put him on the sidelines.
Fleener wasn’t a primary target of Drew Brees in 2017, but he was the Saints’ leading receiver at tight end at the time of his injury. From 2013-2016, Fleener averaged a healthy 52 catches and four touchdowns per season.
The Saints signed Benjamin Watson in March and he now projects as the team’s leading TE. Behind him, the Saints have a group of tight ends including Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui, Garrett Griffin, and Alex Ellis that will jockey for playing time and roster spots.
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