Saints’ ‘Dome-field advantage’ has disappeared during four-game home losing streak _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) looks as time winds down in a NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.

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PHOENIX — Before releasing Curtis Lofton, the Saints sat down with him and let him know they needed improved play at lesser pay at the inside linebacker position.

Lofton led the team in tackles in 2014, but was due to count $9.25 million against the salary cap in 2015.

It’s unclear if Lofton was specifically asked to reduce his salary and balked, but coach Sean Payton said he did not think it made sense to pay Lofton so much money when asked why the linebacker was released.

“Every offseason at some point your boss calls you in and says, ‘Look, we feel like you need to improve in this area, this area and this area,” Payton said. “And you need to be better here, here and here. And by the way, we want to pay you 70 percent of what you made last year.’

“Essentially to some degree the market fluctuates within our game with contracts. We felt like an inside linebacker was going to be someone we definitely had as a must. We didn’t know if it would be a Mike or a Will. I do feel like Dannell Ellerbe has played both and has that flexibility. I do see him playing the Will and having us put (David) Hawthorne back at Mike. With Curtis, there was obviously ‘X’ amount of dollars due to be made. We felt that was going to be the best way to go.”