Updates from Tuesday, March 25
Lance Moore’s two-year deal with the Steelers is worth $3M. Terminated contract with the Saints called for $3.8M in cash in 2014.— Brian McIntyre (@brian_mcintyre) March 25, 2014
After spending the last eight seasons catching passes from Drew Brees, Lance Moore will have to get used to Ben Roethlisberger. NFL Network's Albert Breer reported on Friday that the former New Orleans Saints receiver agreed to a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Steelers announce they've reached a two-year deal with ex-Saints WR Lance Moore.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 21, 2014
Breer also noted Moore's likely role with the team:
Lance Moore will likely replace Jerricho Cotchery in Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown's the clear cut No. 1, and club likes Markus Wheaton a lot.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 21, 2014
The Saints released Moore on March 7, just before the start of the early negotiation window with free agents. With teams pushed up against the cap even despite a larger-than-expected rise to $133 million, Moore was one of numerous veteran contributors sent packing.
Darren Sproles was released on the same day as Moore. Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Roman Harper and Jabari Greer were sent packing in February.
While each of those players were key contributors at times in New Orleans, it was obvious that Moore's departure struck a particular chord within the organization. Owner Tom Benson, general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton each released team statements on the team's official website regarding Moore's release.
The latter two are understandable, but you don't typically get glowing assessments from the team owner about a player cut for cap reasons:
Lance Moore came to us as a rookie and over nine years he made an outstanding contribution to our franchise. He constantly worked hard to get better, showed great enthusiasm for the game and played a big role in our success. He also made significant contributions off the field to our community. Lance’s performance has earned the respect of our entire organization and fans and we thank him for everything.
Despite the praise, Moore's release was mostly expected. He caught just 37 passes for 457 yards and two touchdowns last season. Each of those numbers represented his lowest figures since 2009.
At 30 years old and with Over the Cap indicating that he'll count for $3.8 million in dead money, Moore was an expendable part. The Saints had to test their developmental depth and save money for need areas.
Moore was a veteran leader and had an obvious connection with Drew Brees, but it's fair to wonder whether he'll be as effective elsewhere.
Undrafted out of Toledo in 2005, Moore thrived in New Orleans' wide-open offense—one that has revived the career of many unorthodox talents. In his only pre-Payton season, Moore played in only four games and had just one reception, playing mostly on the practice squad.
Changing systems is a difficult transition for any receiver, let alone someone like Moore, who has spent almost his entire career working under Payton.
One word can change a route combination from one offense to another. It's one of the many reasons wide receivers are typically among the riskiest free-agent signings.
Still, numerous metrics point to Moore being a good bet. Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) wide receiver rating measured Moore as the No. 30 receiver in the NFL last season. His versatility was key. Moore lined up in the slot and out wide, ranking as an above-average option at both positions.
Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric had Moore 12th among receivers, though his limited sample of catches depressed his DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) value a bit.
Worked in as a second or third receiver, Pittsburgh shouldn't have much issue cutting Moore a paycheck in 2014. He'll help in the red zone, catch balls reliably underneath and provide a steadying presence in the locker room.
Not bad for a signing that likely won't create a massive ripple amid the glut of deals.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter @tylerconway22.