The Saints let go of a handful of familiar names in their effort to trim 15 names from the roster.
Wide receiver Nick Toon’s name will likely resonate the loudest with fans of the team, but fullback Erik Lorig, linebacker Ronald Powell, and pass rusher Anthony Spencer and cornerback P.J. Williams, both of whom were placed on injured reserve, are also notable players caught in the purge.
New Orleans also parted ways with cornerback Terrence Frederick, wide receivers R.J. Harris and Lance Lewis, offensive linemen Cole Manhart and Antonio Johnson, linebacker Chris Young, defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster, and defensive tackle David Hunter.
Safety Vinnie Sunseri and Powell were waived with injury designations, meaning they could return to injured reserve or be released with injury settlements. Coach Sean Payton said it’s possible some of those players return to the club later this season.
“The club has flexibility, and in some players’ cases there might be an injury settlement; and the player can come back to the roster this year in the case of a waived/injured player,” Payton said. “If a player was waived/injured and the club was able to injury settle the player, he could end up back with the club this year.”
The Saints also traded wide receiver/return man Jalen Saunders to the New England Patriots for a conditional 2018 seventh-round pick.
To bring the roster back to 75, the Saints claimed defensive back Sammy Seamster off of waivers from the Miami Dolphins.
Toon was waived with an injury designation, so he could return to injured reserve if he goes unclaimed on waivers. Still, even without the injury, Toon might have faced long odds to make the roster.
“I think the depth — there’s never a prefect time,” Payton said. “He’s been great in regards to competition. Certainly he’s had real good weeks he’s put together in practice, yet he’s another player who’s really done a good job.”
Toon entered camp as the odds-on favorite to win the No. 3 wide receiver job but did not step up and lock down the job. He was targeted 23 times throughout camp and made 13 catches.
Brandon Coleman likely would have won the No. 3 receiver job if Toon were healthy, and it’s possible he could have been replaced on the roster by players like Joe Morgan, Josh Morgan, Willie Snead or Seantavius Jones.
Toon, who reportedly injured his ankle, is entering the final year of his contract, meaning that his tenure in New Orleans could be over. Over three seasons, he caught 21 passes for 283 yards with a touchdown.
Lorig signed a four-year deal worth $4.8 million with the Saints before last season. The fullback missed the early portion of last season with a leg injury, during which time Austin Johnson, who later became injured himself, performed admirably.
With his release, it appears Johnson, a former undrafted free agent, will be the starting fullback.
Spencer was signed this offseason to a one-year deal. He was working his way back from 2013 microfracture surgery on his knee and appeared to be in position to compete for a prominent role on the defense. He appeared in the first preseason game and was not seen on the field since.
Powell, a 2014 fifth-round pick, suffered an injury in camp and was not able to get back on the field. Even if healthy, he likely would have been a long shot to make the roster. He joins third-round pick Khairi Fortt and sixth-round pick Tavon Rooks as other members of that draft class who have failed to stick on the roster.
Sunseri, who had three interceptions in camp and injured his knee in the third preseason game against the Houston Texans, was a fifth-round pick in 2014.
Williams, a third-round pick in the draft, suffered a torn hamstring, according to the NFL Network. His injury, in some ways, clears up a logjam at cornerback. The team will likely keep Keenan Lewis, Brandon Browner, Delvin Breaux and Stanley-Jean Baptiste on the 53-man roster. Others, such as rookie Damian Swann, Brian Dixon, and Kyle Wilson are also fighting for one or two roster spots.
Without getting many reps, even if he were to get healthy at some point, Williams would have faced an uphill battle to get up to speed and make meaningful contributions.