You've likely heard the news by now, the Saints have parted ways with Jabari Greer, Will Smith and Roman Harper to get under the salary cap while also announcing they will not re-sign Jonathan Vilma. Those are four veteran players past their prime, three of which spent at least part of the 2013 season on injured reserve. The writing was on the wall for these guys and it was expected, of course, but none the less it hurts to lose guys. I view them as heroes in Saints history. Based on the team accomplishments and their personal accolades, I view all four as forever in the fabric of team history.
The Saints have largely already replaced these players anyway and despite their lofty salaries they did not figure to be prominent parts of 2014. Will Smith, coming off a season long ACL injury, was replaced by emerging ends Junior Galette, Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks. Vilma has been replaced by younger and faster players in David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton. Roman Harper's heir apparent was drafted in the first round of last year's draft in Kenny Vaccaro. At present the one guy they haven't yet replaced is Jabari Greer, and while Keenan Lewis is clearly the best corner on the team they'll need to pair him up with another reliable cover guy (or two) with offseason moves.
I'll really miss these guys, though, and while the time was now it's always sad to see great Saints players go. Especially four that played clear and distinct roles in the Super Bowl title.
I remember when Will Smith was drafted most Saints fans were very upset. At the time the Saints had Darren Howard and Charles Grant on the squad so most felt it wasn't a position of need. 67.5 sacks, a pro bowl appearance, a Super Bowl title and 10 seasons with the Saints later I'd say that was one of the better picks in team history. Will Smith was way more and then some than Howard or Grant ever were to this team.
Roman Harper was a bit of a maligned player that never got his full due because of his struggles in coverage. Unfortunately for him I think most remember the playoff game in San Francisco when they think of him. I choose to remember his 7.5 sack season in 2011 and his numerous massive hits around the line of scrimmage. With two trips to the Pro Bowl it's undeniable he's one of the best 2nd round picks in team history.
Vilma will probably go down as the best trade in Saints history. He was instrumental in the Super Bowl game itself calling check downs on all of Peyton Manning's audibles. I have so many memories of his time with the Saints but his pick six of Cam Newton in 2012 after the whole Bounty Gate saga was probably most special.
Lastly, Jabari Greer. I'll probably miss his personality most and that's saying something because he was a hell of a football player. His spot on WWOZ and his slightly weird but always highly entertaining blog spots on NOLA.com really showed a cool side of him. He also had a pick six against the Falcons in 2009, so that was special too.
All four of these guys have been deeply embedded in the community of New Orleans and I will never forget their service as Saints players. Neither should you if you're a fan.