In desperate need to shed payroll, the New Orleans Saints released three players Monday: offensive guard Jahri Evans and linebackers David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber, per ESPN's Field Yates on Feb. 8. Evan Woodbery of NOLA.com confirmed the report.
Evans was released after refusing to take a pay cut, his agent, Jerrold Colton, told radio station WWIP, (via Woodberry):
"The Saints came to us for the second year in a row about doing a little contract adjustment and pay cut this year. We weren't going to do it again.
He's healthy and hungry and looking forward to the next chapter of his career."
The Saints confirmed Evans' release on Friday.
According to Spotrac, the Saints were set to be a little more than $3.6 million over the 2016 salary cap heading into this offseason. Not only does general manager Mickey Loomis have to decide whether to re-sign potential free agents such as tight end Benjamin Watson, defensive tackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Kyle Wilson, but he could also want to make necessary upgrades to the roster.
By cutting Evans, Hawthorne and Humber, the Saints are only adding to their significant amount of dead money they'll be paying out next year, per Shane Richardson:
With G Jahri Evans release, #Saints now have an eye-popping $21.9M in dead money against their 2016 cap (14.6% of their cap space).— Shane Richardson (@ShaneNFL) February 8, 2016
The timing means New Orleans won't have to pay Evans his $3 million roster bonus, which was set to kick in Wednesday, per ESPN.com's Mike Triplett.
According to NOLA.com's Katherine Terrell, the 32-year-old offensive lineman expected to be back in New Orleans next year but was already planning for a future with a different team:
I asked Evans toward the end of the season if he thought he would be released and he kind of chuckled and said he didn't think so.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) February 8, 2016
He also said he figured he would have a job soon if he did. I believe that. There were teams interested last season— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) February 8, 2016
Evans is a six-time Pro Bowler and a four-time first-team All-Pro. His skills are unquestionably diminishing, though; Pro Football Focus graded him the 27th-best guard in the league. He should still have plenty of suitors this offseason based on his reputation.
Hawthorne and Humber, on the other hand, will have more trouble finding new homes. Neither featured heavily in the Saints defense through the entirety of the 2015 season. The latter appeared in 14 games, making four starts and recording 47 combined tackles. The former finished with 33 combined tackles in 11 appearances—five of which were starts.
For New Orleans, more moves are likely to come. Cornerback Brandon Browner might be the next veteran out of the door after ESPN's John Clayton reported Friday the Saints are likely to release him following his first year with the team. Browner seemingly confirmed his departure as well:
U got to take the good with the bad, sometimes treat the wins like loses. Next Chapter every good book has up and downs #farewellneworleans— Brandon Browner (@bbrowner27) February 5, 2016
Writing for Grantland in 2014, ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell explained in thorough detail how the Saints' short-term outlook was resulting in severe long-term consequences with regard to the salary cap. Loomis has done well in the past to get New Orleans under the cap, but that becomes more and more difficult as he sifts through the players surplus to requirements.
The Saints will have their finances sorted out by the time next year kicks off, but in order to do so, Loomis may have to abandon any hope of putting together a contending team.