The Saints continued shedding payroll for the start of the new league year, which begins Tuesday, by terminating the contract of veteran receiver Lance Moore on Friday.
A day after ESPN reported that Moore, who has been with the Saints since 2005, and running back Pierre Thomas were being “shopped” to other teams, Moore said goodbye on his Twitter account Friday morning.
“Thank you New Orleans for an amazing nine years. Who Dat Nation, the best on earth!!!” he tweeted.
The Saints, who cut three veteran defenders last month to shave about $16.9 million off their 2014 salary cap, announced later in the day that Moore had been released.
“Lance Moore made a significant contribution to our team’s success,” Saints coach Sean Payton said in the news release. “While his production on paper is obvious, it only tells half the story. ... He’s been one of the pillars of what we have built here as an organization.”
The last player remaining from the pre-Payton era after linebacker Will Smith was released Feb. 12, Moore was going into the fourth year of a five-year, $20 million deal he received in 2011.
He was due $3.1 million in base salary and carried a cap figure of about $5.07 million for 2014, when his prorated signing bonus and other bonuses were factored in. His release will save the Saints a little more than $2.7 million on the salary cap.
As of Thursday, the team was close to the $133 million cap after giving tight end Jimmy Graham the franchise tag and offering a one-year tender to safety Rafael Bush, a restricted free agent.
In another cap-related development Friday, the agent for right tackle Zach Strief said the three-year starter and offensive captain will hit the open market when a 72-hour window for agents to negotiate with teams begins at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Teams may only re-sign their own free agents, however, until the free agency signing period starts at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Agent Ralph Cindrich said Strief, a seventh-round pick in 2006, wanted to remain with the Saints and the team wanted him back. But Cindrich said the club was “not in a position to make an offer at this time.”
It wasn’t immediately known whether the door would be open for Strief, who started 42 games the past three seasons, counting the playoffs, to return if he doesn’t land with another team.
Moore joined the Saints in September 2005 after being cut by Cleveland. He spent time on the active roster and practice squad that year before blossoming in Payton’s potent offense.
After catching one pass for 10 yards in 2006, the first with Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, Moore worked his way onto the field a year later and had 32 catches for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
For his career, he caught 346 passes for 4,281 yards and 38 TDs with the Saints. His best seasons were in 2008, when he had 78 receptions for 928 with 10 TDs, and 2012, when he produced a career-high 1,041 yards and six scores on 65 receptions.
Moore, who turns 31 on Aug. 31, missed three games with a hand injury last season and had his snaps cut later in the year. He caught 37 passes for 457 yards with two TDs.
To make salary-cap room to sign Graham, the Saints started cutting payroll in February. They terminated the contracts of Smith, cornerback Jabari Greer and strong safety Roman Harper and announced they wouldn’t re-sign linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
In addition to being a captain along with Brees, Strief, who earned a base salary of $2.23 million in 2013, was one of the leaders in the locker room. He allowed just three sacks and four quarterback hits on one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the NFL, and Pro Football Focus gave Strief the seventh-highest rating among NFL tackles.
At the end of the season, Strief expressed a desire to return to the Saints for what he called his “last opportunity to sign a contract in this league.”
“Obviously, this organization has been a big part of my life,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been a part of the success here, and I don’t want to leave that.”
Advocate sportswriter Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.