The Saints managed to get under the 2013 salary cap on Tuesday when defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma both restructured their contracts, but it didn’t stop them from losing two-time Pro Bowl tackle Jermon Bushrod and backup quarterback Chase Daniel.
General Manager Mickey Loomis confirmed that Smith and Vilma had re-worked their deals, which were needed for the Saints to reach the $123 million cap that went into effect with the start of the new league year at 3 p.m.
But shortly after that, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Daniel, Drew Brees’ backup for the past three seasons, had agreed in principle to a three-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs before Bushrod received a five-year deal from the Chicago Bears.
Bushrod, a four-year starter at left tackle, was the Saints’ top priority among their own 11 free agents — which also included Daniel.
Smith was to count $14.5 million on this year’s cap, while Vilma was scheduled to have a cap figure of $8.6 million — which would have eaten up about $23.1 million of the money available to the team. Details of the restructured deals were not disclosed.
Loomis also confirmed that reserve linebacker Will Herring was released. Herring, who played with the Saints the past two seasons, was scheduled to earn $1.6 million in base pay and carry a cap figure of $1.9 million in 2013.
The Saints, one of only two teams that were over the new cap late last week, were estimated to be about $6 million over Saturday after agreeing to a three-year contract with linebacker Junior Galette.
They also gave second-round tender offers of $2.023 million to center Brian de la Puente and running back Chris Ivory, who, like Galette, were restricted free agents. De la Puente and Ivory can sign offer sheets with another team, but the Saints would have a chance to match the deal or receive a second-round draft pick as compensation.
The Saints, who were reported to be more than $20 million over the salary cap last month, restructured the deals of eight players — including Smith and Vilma — and terminated the contracts of two veterans to get under the cap.
Wide receiver Marques Colston, guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley.
Like Herring, the contract of tight end David Thomas was terminated and third-year cornerback Johnny Patrick was waived.