Saints move on from Smith, Harper, Greer, Vilma

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In many ways, an era has ended for the Saints.

Four key defensive players won’t be back with the team in 2014.  The Saints have terminated the contracts of linebacker Will Smith, cormerback Jabari Greer, and safety Roman Harper.  The team also announced that linebacker Jonathan Vilma (pictured) will not be re-signed.

Last night, we reported that the release of Smith and Harper could come as soon as Wednesday.

“I would like to thank Jabari, Roman, Will, and Jonathan for their contributions on and off the field for the New Orleans Saints over the past several years,” owner Tom Benson said in a team-issued release. “All four of them played important roles in the success of our club and were great players and teammates. In addition, all of them made a significant impact in our community, especially with our youth and helping serve the less fortunate. On behalf of our organization and our fans, we appreciate everything that they have done for us and wish them continued success.”

“These were not easy decisions to make,” G.M. Mickey Loomis said. “Since we acquired them, Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl. They were a great example to our players as team leaders in the locker room as well. Will and Roman were two of the better draft picks we have made. Jonathan Vilma has been one of our best trades ever and Jabari Greer has been one of our best free-agent signings. These are the kinds of players and people you hope to acquire. However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014.”

“I have coached and been around a lot of great players and I put these four guys right there at the top,” coach Sean Payton said. “Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan all represent and epitomize what we look for in our players. These are disciplined, smart, tough and team-oriented individuals. They all played an important role in helping this team and this city win its first Super Bowl and they have all enjoyed multiple playoff appearances and wins.”

Cutting Smith clears his $10.4 million salary off the books. Greer would have earned a base salary of $4 million in 2014; his release will result in a $2.65 million cap charge. Harper was due to earn $2.35 million. He counts for more than $3.5 million in dead money.

All three will become free agents as soon as their terminations are reported to the league. Vilma, whose contract is expiring, won’t be eligible to sign with a new team until March 11.