It has been rumored that veteran strong safety Roman Harper would be one of the first two players released by the New Orleans Saints. And although there were no official Saints moves on the league's transaction wire Wednesday afternoon, he seems to have verified it with a tweet.
The 2006 second round pick was signed through 2015, and actually took a bit of a paycut last year, but the Saints are running up against the cap and absolutely must make some cuts in order to get under. It was widely assumed that Will Smith would be the first to go, but there is no official word on the matter just yet. Cutting Harper saves the Saints approximately $2.2 million in 2014, and $3.5 million in 2015. Cutting both him and Smith will save the Saints around $13 million in 2014, getting the team pretty near the cap threshold.
|Year||Base||S. Bonus||Misc.||Cap Hit||Dead|
Due to a knee injury, Harper only hit the field for nine games in 2013, and started only five games. He had one interception this past season, and was credited with 27 tackles and 12 assists, plus one defended pass. Before 2013, No.41 played in at least 15 games and recorded at least 89 tackles per season ever since his second year in the league. He may still see himself as a good player; but many remain unconvinced, especially with the improved situation at safety due to the success of rookie Kenny Vaccaro. So with the Saints looking at a very difficult cap situation, the 2006 second-round draft pick out of Alabama was being paid too much for putting up his worst stats since his rookie year, when he only played five games.
Opinions of Roman Harper's performance have varied among Saints fans, though common topics of recent conversation include his stream of motivational tweets, and his grey hair making him appear older than his thirty years (he turned 31 in December). The strong safety has been in this league long enough to know that he was on the chopping block, but he loves the Saints and clearly wanted to stay. He told Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez in an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio's "Late Hits", "Hopefully I'll be back. I love New Orleans. I don't want to go anywhere. But it's a business first. They have to make decisions and so do I. Everybody has to do what's best for them in their own situation." [quote courtesy of the Times-Picayune's Katherine Terrell]
Although things didn't work out for Harper to continue playing for the Saints, that doesn't mean his career is over... or even that he will be bereft of familiar teammates. There has been some speculation that Harper could follow OT Jermon Bushrod and OC Aaron Kromer to the Chicago Bears.
Roman Harper will certainly be missed by many Saints fans. He and Will Smith are two of thirteen players on the Saints roster which were also present when New Orleans defeated Indianapolis in February four years ago. With rumors that WR Lance Moore is also on the chopping block, There is a good chance of the team carrying fewer than ten Super Bowl XLIV veterans into the 2014 regular season.
Update: The Saints made the announcement official, and added three more players as cap casualties. More info here.