On the eve of free agency the Saints have announced they have released line backer Mark Simoneau, offensive lineman Jamar Nesbit and will part ways with long time starting defensive end Charles Grant.
New Orleans is limited to whom it can sign in free agency because of the rule changes put in place by the final year of the collective bargaining agreement. Essentially the final four play-off teams aren’t allowed to sign any unrestricted free agents unless they lose one first, and they can only sign a new player at a similar salary level.
Now the release of Mark Simoneau and Jamar Nesbit were not done necessarily to clear room for other players but were more a house cleaning move than anything. Simoneau has been a part of the Saints since 2006 starting in 30 games making 172 tackles but has missed the last two seasons entirely because of injury, his release was overdue.
Nesbit’s release is a little more clouded because he could play both guard and center, becoming a key backup at each position. Apparently the Saints felt they no longer required his services which only raises questions of the depth along the offensive line. Nesbit appeared in 84 games for the Saints starting 43 of those contests, he has been in the NFL for eleven years.
The big kahuna is the pending release of defensive end Charles Grant who has been with the team since being drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft. Grant has appeared 118 games since then starting 106 of them. He has recorded 505 tackles with 47 sacks to rank eighth on the club’s all-time sack list. He also had one interception, 14 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in his careers as a Saint.
Grant was having a decent season in 2009 posting 53 tackles and 5.5 sacks before tearing his triceps in the final game of the season and missing the Saints play-off run and Super Bowl XLIV victory. Ironically it was the exact same triceps injury that cut his 2008 campaign short when he missed the last eight games on injured reserve.
Speculation has run rampant this off-season on whether the Saints would indeed part ways with Grant because of his injury concerns andrather large contract for rather low output. Grant has also had some off the field issues being implicated in the death of a young pregnant girl in a nightclub in February of 2008. He maintained his innocence but was eventually indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges although a trial has not been held.
Next he was, and still is, entangled in a pending case with the NFL fighting a suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic said to help mask steroid use. The diuretic was ingested through the weight loss supplement Star Caps which at the time was not on the NFL’s list of banned substances. He and several other athletes state the NFL knew the supplement contained a banned ingredient but allowed them to take Star Caps anyways and therefore are not at fault.
Grants release may indicate the Saints desire to pursue a few key defensive ends in free agency, namely Julius Peppers and Aaron Kampman. Then again it could mean they are wanting to go after a young end in the draft where they currently hold the 32nd pick.
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