It's "Black Wednesday" for quite a few notable names and fan favorites as the Saints have announced that they have released Roman Harper, Will Smith, Jabari Greer and will not resign Jonathan Vilma. Each one of those players played a key role in the team's 2009 Super Bowl win, but you just cannot slow down Father Time. None of the moves come as a shock.
Smith turns 33 in the summer and missed all of last season with a torn ACL. By cutting the linebacker he team saves a whooping 11.5 million dollars in cap space.
Harper's release saves the Saints $2.18 million. The safety is 31 years old and battled a knee injury most of last year.
Greer is a 32 year old cornerback who is recovering from a torn ACL. He has played a full 16-game season just once in the past six years.
All together, the Saints save nearly $16 million in cap space with the 3 terminations. Some more cuts could still be on the way, as the Black and gold still need to re-sign tight end Jimmy Graham, fill some needs in free agency which opens on March 11th, and then sign their selections from the upcoming NFL draft in May.
As for Jonathan Vilma, he was about to be a free agent and has little to nothing left in the gas tank. At 31, the linebacker has had multiple surgeries on his knees and is just not the same player he once was.
Read the full Saints press release regarding the roster moves below:
New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis announced today that the club has terminated the contracts of CB Jabari Greer, S Roman Harper and DE/OLB Will Smith and that they will not re-sign ILB Jonathan Vilma.
“I would like to thank Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan for their contributions on and off the field for the New Orleans Saints over the past several years,” said Saints Owner/Chairman of the Board Tom Benson. “All four of them played important roles in the success of our club and were great players and teammates. In addition, all of them made a significant impact in our community, especially with our youth and helping serve the less fortunate. On behalf of our organization and our fans, we appreciate everything that they have done for us and wish them continued success.”
“These were not easy decisions to make,” said Loomis. “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. They were a great example to our players as team leaders in the locker room as well. Will and Roman were two of the better draft picks we have made. Jonathan Vilma has been one of our best trades ever and Jabari Greer has been one of our best free agent signings. These are the kinds of players and people you hope to acquire. 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.”
“I have coached and been around a lot of great players and I put these four guys right there at the top,” said Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. “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.”
Greer, 5-11, 180, is a 10-year NFL veteran who was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Buffalo Bills in 2004 out of the University of Tennessee. After spending his first five NFL seasons in Buffalo, Greer was signed by New Orleans as a free agent in 2009. In five seasons with the Saints, he appeared in 63 games with 60 starts and recorded 290 tackles (227 solo), nine interceptions with two returned for touchdowns, 68 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In 2013, Greer started the first 10 games and finished with 31 tackles (24 solo), one interception and eight passes defensed before suffering a knee injury vs. San Francisco on November 17.
Harper, 6-1, 200, was the club’s second round draft choice (43rd overall) in 2006 out of Alabama. In eight seasons, he appeared in 108 games and started 104 of them. Harper registered 743 tackles (525 solo), the highest total by a Saint since 2006. He also had 17 sacks, seven interceptions, 53 passes defensed, 13 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Harper is the only safety in Saints history to be selected to two Pro Bowls (2009 and 2010) and his 17 takedowns are the most in club record books by a Black and Gold defensive back. In 2013, Harper appeared in nine games with five starts and finished with 42 tackles (29 solo), one interception, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery.
Smith, 6-3, 282, is a 10-year NFL veteran who was selected by the Saints in the first round (18th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft. The former Ohio State first-team All-American made an immediate impact on the Saints as a rookie, recording 7.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Two seasons later in 2006, he led the club with 10.5 takedowns and added three forced fumbles as he powered a club defensively that reached the NFC Championship for the first time and was selected to the Pro Bowl. In 2009, Smith started all 16 games and posted a career-high 13 sacks to rank second in the NFC, adding 77 tackles (42 solo), his first career interception, four passes defensed and three forced fumbles as New Orleans captured Super Bowl XLIV. Overall, Smith appeared in 139 career games with 120 starts for the Saints and posted career totals of 363 tackles (255 solo), 67.5 sacks, two interceptions, 24 passes defensed, 19 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. Smith’s takedown total ranks fourth in club record books.
Vilma, 6-1, 230, was originally selected by the New York Jets in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami. He made an immediate impact as the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, recording 118 tackles and three interceptions and was selected to his first Pro Bowl the following season when he led the NFL with 187 stops. Vilma was acquired by the Saints in a trade in the 2008 offseason and in six seasons appeared in 70 games with 68 starts patrolling the middle of the New Orleans defense and recorded 530 tackles (331 solo), eight sacks, six interceptions, 27 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. He was selected to Pro Bowls in 2009 and 2010 and led the Saints in tackles for three consecutive seasons from 2008-10. Selected a defensive team captain four times, Vilma has appeared in 125 games with 121 starts with career totals of 990 tackles (643 solo), 10.5 sacks, 12 interceptions, 41 passes defensed, 11 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries.