Lance Moore says he was working out in a gym on March 6 when his cell phone was flooded with text messages asking him something to the effect of, “Dude, did you see what (Adam) Schefter just tweeted?”
The receiver quickly learned ESPN’s renowned NFL insider had reported via Twitter that New Orleans was open to trading Moore and a couple of other Saints, and it was his first indication — as well as his agent’s — that the team he had been a member of for more than eight years was willing to part ways with him.
While it wasn’t the ideal way to find such a thing out, Moore perfectly grasps why the Saints then released him March 7, and he has “no hard feelings” toward New Orleans, he told SiriusXM NFL Radio hosts Ross Tucker and Amani Toomer in an interview Monday morning.
“Obviously, they’re strapped for cash, ... and at my position they have some younger guys that have played some ball,” said Moore, who signed a two-season deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency and will now be replaced in New Orleans with second-year receiver Kenny Stills. “I’ve been around long enough. I get it.”
Moore continued, “It’s just kind of weird the way that I found out. ... I immediately called my agent (Dave Butz) and asked him what he had heard, and he hadn’t heard anything either, so that was kind of surprising to me at that time.
“(But) it kind of made sense. I wasn’t one of those that didn’t know about the (salary) cap and how strapped for cash they were, so I understand it.”
The 5-foot-9 Moore joined the Saints back in 2005 and went on to catch 346 passes for 4,281 yards — respectively, fourth- and sixth-most in each category in franchise record books.
He also caught the fifth-most touchdown passes in Saints history (38) and a key two-point conversion pass in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIV, New Orleans’ lone NFL championship victory.
However, Moore was due $3.8 million in salary and bonuses for 2014, and his being cut would clear $2.5 million in cap space, of which there wasn’t a whole lot as the beginning of the free agency signing period on March 11 neared. It also didn’t help his cause that Stills — a rookie last year who’s owed about $543,600 in salary and bonuses for 2014 — had 641 yards and five touchdowns on 32 catches in the regular season while Moore had 457 yards and two TDs on 37 grabs.
“I was due more money than they wanted to pay me,” the 30-year-old Moore, who scored a touchdown in the Saints’ wildcard playoff win over Philadelphia in January, said to Tucker and Toomer. “I feel like in this league they’re always trying to get younger and cheaper at the same time. That was a perfect opportunity for them to do that.”
Moore nonetheless reiterated that he “loved” his time in New Orleans and “wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
For the record, after the team released the receiver, Saints coach Sean Payton said about him: “Lance Moore made a significant contribution to our team’s success. 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 New England Patriots quickly contacted Moore following his release and brought him in for a visit, which went well, he said. But then that door closed on him after New England re-signed receiver Julian Edelman and acquired former Carolina wideout Brandon LaFell, an ex-LSU standout.
Moore next visited the Steelers, and the organization made an immediate impression on him: the first thing it showed him was a case displaying the six Super Bowl trophies the team has won. Two of those were under his new quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger; and one of those was under his new coach, Mike Tomlin.
“All the coaches had something to say about it: ‘Hey, man, that’s why we’re here — we want to put a seventh one in there,’” said Moore, who agreed to a contract with Pittsburgh on Friday and is favored to man the slot position vacated by Emmanuel Sanders (now with Denver). “At this point in my career, that’s why I’m here — I want to win.
“I don’t want to be somewhere just collecting a check.”
“I think it was worth it. ... We’re trying to work something out so that maybe I can get a cameo.” — Moore, on his last touchdown celebration at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in which he thrust his hips three times and which was inspired by the skit “Excessive Celebration” from Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele.”
He and Stills — who threw his playing towel in the air as part of a celebration Moore insisted was talked about but never rehearsed — were each fined $7,875.