The first, second, and third reasons why the Saints released Lance Moore (or at least they reportedly did or will according to Lance Moore) are all money. That sweet, sweet cash. A cap crunched team that needs to pay Jimmy Graham entered today only slightly above the cutline at an estimated $1.6 million, which is why Thursday afternoon rumors bubbled regarding the Saints shopping not only Moore, but also Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas. Now by axing Moore they save $2.5 million in cap room.
But beyond the cold cash, this move was made much easier by depth, which is a wonderful and highly coveted thing during March in the NFL.
It’s true that Moore was/is declining regardless, as the receiver who will be on the wrong side of 30 when the 2014 season begins had just 457 receiving yards in 2013 while struggling through some injuries. That came after a promising 2012 when he had easily a career high 1,041 yards, forming a highly effective tandem with Marques Colston (the Saints had two +1,000 yard receivers).
But here’s the thing about a quarterback and an offense that distributes the ball with great generosity: unless you’re truly elite and on another level compared to your peers (see: Graham), you’re expendable, and there will always be another body or bodies behind you on the depth chart to slide up seamlessly.
This past season Drew Brees completed 446 passes, the second most in the league behind only Peyton Manning. Yet although Graham came close while struggling through an injury, the Saints didn’t have a pass catcher with 90 or more receptions. Instead they had four with +70, and the position those four play has an even greater offseason impact. Of the four, only one is a wide receiver (Colston), and two others are running backs (Thomas and Sproles).
That’s why one specific section of the Saints’ offensive machine — the wideouts — can be manipulated and moved, while the overall mechanism remains the same. Behind Moore there’s Kenny Stills, the fifth-round pick last spring who did far more with far less. In his rookie year Stills finished with 641 yards and five touchdowns on only 32 catches. That’s five fewer catches than Moore, but 184 more yards.
Going further, the seldom used but still young and still promising Nick Toon can ascend, or Robert Meachem can be re-signed to at the very least equal Moore’s contribution. There’s also Joe Morgan, a speedy fellow who missed all of 2013 with an ACL injury, and he’s an RFA who can be tendered on the cheap.
Shuffle up and deal.