As the Saints try to deal with an aging defense and an untenable cap situation, several players who have been key components of the franchise’s recent success could soon be out the door.
Smith has a cap number of $13.9 million, thanks in large part to a $10.4 million base salary. He tore an ACL in August and missed all of the 2013 season.
If healthy (and there’s no reason to think he won’t be), the 2004 first-round pick could still be an effective 4-3 defensive end — possibly joining the rotation for a team like the Seahawks, if Michael Bennett moves on.
Harper, a second-round pick in 2006, is due to earn a base salary of $2.35 million. He carries nearly $3.6 million in cap money for bonuses previously paid.
It’s also highly likely, we’re told, that linebacker Jonathan Vilma won’t return. The impending free agent appeared in only one game last year due to a lingering knee problem. He was acquired via trade from the Jets in 2008 after the team that drafted him in the first round switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.
The Saints could end up making other cuts in order to re-sign tight end Jimmy Graham and otherwise manage a salary structure that devotes $18.4 million in cap space to Drew Brees this year — and $26.4 million next year.