- The New Orleans Saints have released running back Latavius Murray after he refused to take a pay cut.
- Murray had two years remaining on his contract and the Saints will save $2.327 million USD with the move.
- Alvin Kamara remains the Saints’ starting quarterback with Tony Jones, Jr. listed as his primary backup.
According to the old cliche, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’. There’s also not a dollar sign ($) in ‘team’. Former New Orleans Saints’ running back Latavius Murray learned that today the hard way and now he’s looking for a new team. He was released by the Saints after refusing to take a pay cut to help with the team’s tenuous salary cap position.
There’s not many details but given the Saints’ thorny salary cap situation (just $2.1 million under the cap heading into the 2021 season) and reports of other players restructuring deals to provide teams with more financial maneuverability it’s easy to fill in the blanks. Earlier today, Dak Prescott restructured his deal to provide the Cowboys with an additional a $5 million USD in cap space. Entering the day, Dallas had just $4.2 million USD under the NFL salary cap.
The Saints had even less space under the cap and presumably Murray was being asked to take a cut in order to give them more room to work with. Murray was due to make $3.15 million USD in salary and bonuses this season. You don’t have to be a math genius to realize that $3.15 million minus an undisclosed pay cut is *still* better than ‘zero’. This is particularly true for a 31 year old running back that was playing for his third NFL team. It’s no secret that with few exceptions running backs are virtually ‘interchangeable’ which is why you seldom see them taken high in the NFL draft. The Saints might have been Murray’s last chance to earn some significant money as Alvin Kamara’s backup. Murray had two years left on a four year $14.4 million USD contract. He’s been a productive contributor but with the glut of running backs on the market and the emergence of undrafted Tony Jones, Jr. he was expendable–particularly after he wasn’t interested in helping the team improve their cap situation. Dwayne Washington is listed as third on the depth chart.
Murray’s decision to play hardball with his salary was even less advisable given the fact that New Orleans had just released a younger, more talented running back in Devonta Freeman. Freeman has been looking for a job ever since he was released by the Atlanta Falcons after the 2019 season. Freeman played five games for the New York Giants last year putting up 172 rushing yards and one touchdown. Not that he’s worth the headache but former Pittsburgh Steelers/New York Jets/Kansas City Chiefs running back Le’veon Bell is also on the market.
The Saints are in a rebuilding mode following the retirement of Drew Brees. Jameis Winston has been named starting quarterback but former BYU standout Taysom Hill is also on the depth chart. Given the state of flux at quarterback there’s every reason to expect the Saints’ rushing game to play a more prominent role this season. This not only means more work for Alvin Kamera but his backups as well. Word out of the New Orleans training camp suggests that Tony Jones, Jr. had moved ahead of Murray even if the depth chart didn’t reflect it. New Orleans has a couple of other options for a running back if circumstances necessitate with special teams player Dwayne Washington and receiver Ty Montgomery also capable of moving into the position.
New Orleans is expected to regress in their first season without Brees. The Saints finished 12-4 last year but were eliminated by eventual champions Tampa Bay at the divisional round of the playoffs. For the 2021 season, the Saints are +3500 to win the Super Bowl at BetOnline.ag and a +375 second choice to win the NFL South behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at -225. Their O/U wins total is set at 9 with the ‘Under’ priced at -150.