Exhausting every option to create as much cap room as possible with free agency on the horizon, the New Orleans Saints are now expected to part ways with RB Darren Sproles. Having already released Lance Moore earlier on Friday, Sproles is likely next up on the team's chopping block should he not be traded within the coming days.
Sproles has never been a featured back in either San Diego, where he spent the first six years of his career, or New Orleans. But he played a big role in Sean Payton's offense, not only as a diminutive runner but as a valuable tool in the passing game, often taking short dump offs from Drew Brees and turning them into large gains. He essentially took over the role vacated by Reggie Bush's departure in the 2011 offseason. Darren Sproles is likely done in New Orleans
After tallying 18 total scores through his first two seasons in New Orleans, Sproles' production took a dip in 2013, as injuries and the productivity of his fellow backfield mates played a part in his decreasing output. Sproles found the end zone just 4 times last season, with his numbers mostly down across the board, including an average of 4.2 yards per rush, his lowest since the 2009 season. He lost two fumbles, his only two as a Saint, in 2013.
Sproles' salary was by no means considered out of the ordinary, but he was scheduled to earn nearly $3.5 million in 2013, the most out of all the Saints' Running Backs, including Pierre Thomas, who the team is said to also be looking to trade or release in order to clear as much cap space as possible. The Saints are preparing to try and retain free agents of their own, while simultaneously planning to generate proper cap space for a potential Jimmy Graham contract and having necessary funds to tie down their 2014 draft class. Given his decline in production, the team has likely deemed his salary as expendable, and appears ready to move forward with their younger backs, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson.
One way or another, Sproles has almost certainly played his last game as a New Orleans Saint. The team will explore every opportunity to trade him as they did with Moore, but if there are no takers, he will join Roman Harper, Will Smith and Jabari Greer on the open market after the trio were cut last month, signaling the beginning of the team's efforts to create as much available cap space necessary heading into the new league year. Sproles' time as a Saint may be coming to an end, but he should find another home in the NFL soon.