ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday that the Saints were trying to shop wide receiver Lance Moore via trade, but apparently there were no takers, and his price tag was too much for the team to stomach. Moore said goodbye to the city of New Orleans via Twitter on Friday.
Thank you New Orleans for an amazing nine years. Who Dat Nation, the best on earth!!!— Lance Moore (@LanceMoore16) March 7, 2014
According to Over the Cap, Moore’s salary plus bonuses were going to cost New Orleans $5.07 million against its cap in 2014. Since the Saints couldn’t find a suitable trade partner, the team saved $2.53 million by releasing him—a move Schefter said will become official Friday.
Saints officially are releasing WR Lance Moore today, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 7, 2014
Moore was fifth on the team with 37 receptions last season and sixth with 457 yards receiving. During his eight seasons in New Orleans he played in 101 games with 346 catches and 4,281 yards receiving with 38 touchdowns. Moore’s two best seasons were his 10-touchdown catch 2008 performance and 2012, when he tallied 1,041 receiving yards.
Not only was the price tag attached to Moore too much for the Saints, he was being passed on the depth chart too. Kenny Stills, a fifth-round pick last year, caught 32 passes for 641 yards and was likely the Saints new No. 2 receiver behind Marques Colston.
The Saints have Nick Toon, who they hope will develop into a No. 3- or 4-like receiver, and also would like restricted free agent Joe Morgan, who missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL, to return as a potential No. 3. New Orleans has also had initial talks with Robert Meachem, in an attempt to bring the 30-year-old who caught 16 passes last season back.
If the Saints had those five receivers: Colston, Stills, Toon, Morgan and Meachem all healthy and producing in 2014, the loss of Moore would barely be felt.
Moore’s production dropped dramatically in 2013. After averaging 91 targets per season in his three seasons prior, and notching 105 in 2012, Moore was only targeted 54 times last season. His receptions were also almost cut in half with 37, down from 65 the year prior.
At a cost of $5.07 million, Moore’s decline in productivity was a good portion of the reason New Orleans felt the need to cut ties with the wide receiver.
The current cap situation for New Orleans is dire. This according to Over the Cap, a site that predicts the Saints are about $1.5 million under the cap after tight end Jimmy Graham’s franchise tag is factored in. The extra cap space cleared by the release of Moore will more than double the available cash reserve.
When the Moore release becomes official, the Saints will have approximately $4 million dollars free to spend. While that’s enough to sign its rookie class in the upcoming draft in May, New Orleans will need more money to make any plays in free agency.
This particular period in the offseason is never easy for most teams, but New Orleans is going to have an incredibly tough go of it. With only $4 million of available cap space, there are still many moves to be made. Moore’s release was just one of those many, and it was a smart financial move.
The class of free-agent wide receivers is large this year, and that means teams, not players, will have the upper hand in negotiations. With so many wide receivers available, at such a high level of talent, some bargains are there to be had for savvy teams. The Saints just couldn’t sit and overpay Moore, who won’t crack the top five list of available free agents at his position.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.