Right tackle Zach Strief wanted to remain with the New Orleans Saints, and the team wanted to keep him. But New Orleans "is not in a position to make an offer at this time," and he will hit free agency on March 11, says his agent Ralph Cindrich.
Strief was one of the Saints' offensive captains, and he was one of their top lockerroom leaders. A seventh round draft pick for New Orleans in 2006, he started 42 games, including the playoffs. Head coach Sean Payton inserted him into the starting lineup three seasons ago.
The website Pro Football Focus gave him and quarterback Drew Brees the highest overall ratings for Saints players in 2013.
After allowing just three sacks and four quarterback hits on one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the National Football League, Pro Football Focus also gave Strief the seventh highest rating among tackles in the league.
Strief earned a base salary of $2.23 million in 2013. At the end of the season, he expressed his desire to rejoin New Orleans 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," Strief said in January. "I feel like I've been a part of the success here, and I don't want to leave that."
Strief was the second veteran player the Saints were prepared to cut ties with on Friday. Receiver Lance Moore, who had been under contract for the 2014 season, tweeted a good-bye to New Orleans on Frirday indicating that the team was going to release him.