NFL New Orleans Saints

5 New Orleans Saints Who Shouldn’t Be Back In 2014

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5 New Orleans Saints Who Shouldn't Be Back In 2014

5 New Orleans Saints Who Shouldn't Be Back In 2014
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints are in a tough spot this offseason. They find themselves right up against, or possibly even already over, the dreaded salary cap. This means that they have no room to re-sign players they want to keep, especially All-World tight end Jimmy Graham. This doesn’t mean they can’t keep Graham and others in town, it just means they need to make some hard cuts to make room.

Graham will almost certainly be back next season mostly because they can always use the franchise tag on him. Players hate it when teams tag them, and the Saints would love to work out a cap-friendly long-term deal. But if that doesn’t happen, they’ll tag him so he doesn’t have the chance to get a big offer from another team that does have free cap space, like the division rival Atlanta Falcons.

Keeping Graham is the top priority for the Saints this spring, but they have other needs as well. The defense, while improved, still needs some playmakers in the secondary, while the offense could always use another receiver or two for quarterback Drew Brees. These things are all doable, especially in the draft, but only if the Saints make room for them by shedding dead weight and heavy cap hits.

It’s always hard letting players go, especially ones that may still have value on the field, but end it’s all about how much the team has to pay for that value in the end. If they're paying too much and getting too little in return, they need to be decisive in getting rid of those kinds of players.

If the Saints want to get back to championship form before it’s too late for Brees, they need to make sure these five players aren’t coming back in 2014.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Roman Harper

Roman Harper
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran safety Roman Harper has been a leader on the Saints' defense for years now. But, there always comes a time when the older player just can’t get it done anymore. Better that the Saints let him go and get some young legs in the secondary next season.

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4. Pierre Thomas

Pierre Thomas
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

You just can’t afford to allocate significant portions of your salary cap to running backs anymore. With a few exceptions (see Peterson, Adrian) running backs should be strictly of the young, cheap variety. With a $2.9 million cap hit looming in 2014, the Saints would be wise to let Pierre Thomas run somewhere else.

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3. Shayne Graham

Shayne Graham
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a solid season in 2012, Shayne Graham missed both field goal attempts in the Saints’ playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Sometimes in life you have to exorcise some demons, and bringing in a new kicker will help New Orleans move on. The good news for Graham is that he'll likely find another job next year.

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2. Will Smith

Will Smith
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive end Will Smith, an aging veteran with mounting injuries who comes with a huge cap hit, is about the easiest cut in football today. NFL teams know they can’t afford to use up large portions of their cap on older players, so if Smith won’t take a massive pay cut to stay in New Orleans, he’ll wind up taking one to play somewhere else.

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1. Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Mark Ingram hasn't quite been a bust in the pros, but he hasn't lived up to his first-round billing either. That is mostly because no back is worth a first-round pick these days, but that doesn't let Ingram off the hook for his erratic performance in New Orleans. The former Heisman Trophy winner is a serviceable option at running back, but that is worth nowhere near the $2.4 million he’s slated to count against the cap next year.