The New Orleans Saints have announced today that Darren Sproles will not be returning to the team next year. The Saints will attempt to trade the scat back, but if no buyer can be found, they will outright release him. They are in desperate need of salary cap room after franchise tagging Jimmy Graham last week for $7.05 million. Moving Sproles will free up $3.5 million, a price the Saints are no longer willing to pay a back whose numbers dropped dramatically in 2013. He is now 30 years old, the typical age a running back begins to see decline, and the Saints want to cut ties before that happens. Sproles should not have a difficult time finding a new home. The running back has gained 13,806 all-purpose yards since 2007, which is the most in the league. Someone should be willing to give the speedster a chance to prove he is not all burned out just yet.
Darren Sproles is not the only player the Saints are saying goodbye to this season. They have also released linebackers Will smith and Jonathan Vilma, as well as cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Roman Harper. The emergence of rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills has also closed the door on long-time Saint wide receiver Lance Moore, who was served his walking papers Friday as well.
Vikings’ fans held their collective breath when Matt Cassel opted out of his contract with Minnesota just days after the Super Bowl was over. It was not that Cassel was a superstar that had decided to walk. His 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2013 was far short of spectacular. However, given that Christian Ponder was the only other quarterback left on the team, many fans had begun to worry. After all, the eighth pick in the draft is nice, but will probably still occur after the top three quarterbacks in the draft are already off the board. The Vikings put fan’s fears to rest on Friday by re-signing Cassel to a two year deal worth $10 million. For Cassel, this is the upgrade in salary he was looking for, and for the Vikings, it means two years of stable, albeit not spectacular, play at the quarterback position.
The Pittsburg Steelers continued to free up cap space Friday by reconstructing wide receiver Antonio Brown’s contract. The emerging star followed teammates Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu’s example by agreeing to the deal that would free up $4 million in cap space for his team.
The Jacksonville Jaguars may have finally found their answer at quarterback. The team has re-signed Chad Henne to a two-year deal worth $8 million. Despite the Jaguars dismal 0-8 start, Henne helped the team to salvage their season by leading them to a 4-4 record down the stretch. More impressive was the fact that he engineered such a turn around without any real offensive threats. Cecil Shorts III missed the last three weeks of the season with a sports hernia, and dynamic wide receiver Justin Blackmon missed the entire second half due to suspension. Though Henne’s numbers were not elite, he did manage to become the first Jacksonville quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards since the 2009 season.
Commentary by Chris Chisam