The New Orleans Saints will have to be creative this offseason when it comes to working their cap situation, as they have to get deals done with star tight end Jimmy Graham and stalwart right tackle Zach Strief. In order to keep the Saints in a solid financial situation, general manager Mickey Loomis will have to make some cuts to well-known veterans, and some of those decisions will be much tougher than others.
At this point in time, the Saints are actually projected to be over the salary cap, so there is plenty of urgency to get some cuts going. According to ESPN NFL Nation’s Mike Triplett, the two most likely cuts are two veterans on the defensive side of the ball in DE Will Smith and SS Roman Harper. There has been plenty of speculation regarding the chances of both players being released, and it would be a huge shock if the Saints retained both players in 2014.
Smith seems like a lock to be released, because he isn’t productive anymore and hasn’t been productive since recording 13 sacks in 2009. He’s clearly not a fit in the 3-4, so Rob Ryan isn’t going to be jockeying to keep Smith anytime soon. His time on the Saints defense has come and gone, and the 32-year-old figures to be a veteran backup on a 4-3 team somewhere in 2014. Coming off of a torn ACL and set to make over $11 million, Smith is just about the easiest cut in the world and doesn’t deserve to make a fraction of his salary.
As for Harper, there’s still a chance the Saints keep him, but he could also be a cap casualty this offseason. The Saints have Kenny Vaccaro locked in as one starting safety, but they could afford to upgrade the other safety spot that is occupied by a rotation of Harper and Malcolm Jenkins, who is an impending free agent. The Saints could keep one of either Harper or Jenkins, but both are incompetent starters and should be replaced by a cheaper option. Harper could be affordable if he decides to re-sign after being cut or taking a paycut, but he isn’t worth even the roughly $3 million he is scheduled to make this season. I wouldn’t consider Harper a lock to be cut, but I don’t expect him to be back.