This offseason has seen the New Orleans Saints make cuts left and right, some of which were obvious—but last week, the team made cuts that were a bit of a shock.
The first round of cuts saw the defense take a big hit with cornerback Jabari Greer, safety Roman Harper and linebacker/defensive end Will Smith getting the boot. The Saints also informed linebacker Jonathan Vilma that they won't try to re-sign him.
Vilma wasn't a shock after he spent last season injured and unable to play a down. Smith was a high-priced aging veteran, and so was Harper. Both Vilma and Harper have seen their play drop off since helping the team win the Super Bowl.
Greer and Smith tore ACLs last season. Smith has been in the league for eight seasons, so it makes sense the Saints would cut him after an injury. Greer's cut was more complicated (injury protection benefits), so it was, at the time, the biggest surprise.
Then, last week New Orleans announced it was cutting wide receiver Lance Moore and running back Darren Sproles, which might be the biggest cuts the Saints have made this offseason.
Moore was a dependable receiver who always seemed to make a big catch when New Orleans needed one. He was Saints quarterback Drew Brees' safety net when the quarterback needed to settle down or get a big first down.
Sproles was a running back who could do everything. He could pass protect, run inside or outside. He was a great receiver in the passing game and a dangerous return man in the kicking game.
A healthy Sproles allowed the Saints to put pressure on defenses with his versatility. In fact, losing Sproles might have the biggest effect on the Saints offense if the team can't sign a replacement.
New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham tweeted he was "shocked and disappointed" by the Saints cutting Sproles. Graham's tweet was kind of funny since he is one of the reasons New Orleans had to cut Sproles and the other players.
Graham wants a huge salary, to be paid as the top tight end in the league or paid like a wide receiver. That means someone has to go to free up money for the tight end.
Graham wants to get paid like Saints quarterback Brees, who got his money lined up a couple of seasons ago. I understand the short window for playing in the NFL, and I don't begrudge either player for wanting to make as much money as possible. But Graham shouldn't be shocked—he should know he played a part in these cuts.
The salary cap in the NFL makes it one of the most exciting sports in the world. It levels the playing field and is part of the reason that, at the start of each season, fans for every team feel they could win the Super Bowl (well, except perhaps fans of the Cleveland Browns).
But what happened last week in New Orleans shows the ugly side of the salary cap.