The New Orleans Saints need to clear some salary-cap space, and it appears they’re prepared to part with some big names to do it.
The Saints’ first big cut will be Pro Bowl defensive end Will Smith, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Smith, 32, holds a $13.9 million cap charge for the 2014 season, and his release would save the Saints $11.9 million, giving them some flexibility in free agency.
Smith, 32, was a first-round draft pick (18th overall) of the Saints in 2004 and has spent 10 seasons with the team. After nine productive seasons at defensive end, including a few as a team captain, Smith was slated to play outside linebacker in the Saints’ 3-4 defensive scheme in 2013. However, Smith tore his ACL during the team’s third preseason game and missed the entire 2013 season. He had missed just five of a possible 144 games in the nine seasons prior.
Smith has 457 tackles, 67.5 sacks and 20 forced fumbles with the Saints. He was selected to his only Pro Bowl in the 2006 season, finishing the campaign with 51 tackles, a career-high 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Smith might be the biggest name to leave New Orleans this offseason, but he’s unlikely to be the only one. Rapoport also reported that safety Roman Harper and wide receiver Lance Moore could be headed for free agency in potential cap-cutting moves.
Smith won’t command a big-money deal on the open market, considering his age and the fact he’s coming off a major knee injury, but he still should attract more than a few suitors in need of pass-rushing help.
UPDATE: The Saints announced Wednesday night that they have released Smith, Harper and cornerback Jabari Greer and will not re-sign linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
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Photo via Facebook/Will Smith