Sproles wants to be released by Saints, not traded

Following reports that about a third of teams in the NFL are interested in trading for him, Saints running back Darren Sproles told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Wednesday that he’s opposed to the idea because he’d like to be in control of his playing future.

“I want to get released — I don’t want to be traded,” Sproles said, according to Anderson. “I don’t know where they would send because I have no control over, and I want to be able to pick.

“The good thing is none of the team I’m told they’re talking to are terrible. It’s more than two. I feel I should more of an idea later on today.”

Sproles on Friday was strongly rumored to be released; but days later national media reported he’d likely be traded due to interest from at least 10 teams. It was initially said he would be cut if he couldn’t be dealt elsewhere, but he remained on the Saints’ roster as of Tuesday night on a contract with one year and $3.5 million left.

Freeing themselves of Sproles’ deal would put the Saints more than $6 million under the 2014 salary cap of $133 million. That’s valuable space in the wake of the enormous six-year deal they agreed to terms on with marquee free-agent safety Jairus Byrd on Tuesday — the contract is reportedly worth about $54 million, with $28 million of it guaranteed.

Sproles bid farewell to New Orleans via Twitter on Friday, and his departure seems virtually certain now that the Saints have extended his fellow running back Pierre Thomas.

Nonetheless, he has led folks to believe he’s been in the dark about his own status.

He logged on Twitter on Friday; quoted an ESPN report about the interest in a trade; said, “Wow!” — and concluded, “The stuff u find out on Twitter.”

If Sproles’ side of the story is accurate, that’s unfortunate. He’s been a valuable cog in the Saints’ dominant offense, has been an upstanding professional to deal with in the locker room and deserves much better than he’s gotten, regardless of how busy things have been for New Orleans leading up to and since the beginning of the free-agency signing period on Tuesday.

Shortly after joining the Saints in free agency in 2011, Sproles set an NFL single-season record with 2,696 all-purpose yards as New Orleans got to the divisional round of the playoffs. But his production dropped in each of the next two campaigns.

Sproles had 1,577 all-purpose yards in 2012, during which the Saints finished 7-9 and missed the postseason. In 2013, as New Orleans again reached the divisional round, he tallied 1,273 all-purpose yards, a drop of 53 percent from what he had in 2011.

He’s posted a total of 1,067 rushing yards, 1,981 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns for New Orleans.

Other tidbits:

– Saints coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan among the top NFL personnel at the University of Alabama’s Pro Day, according to FoxSports.com’s Peter Schrager.

- Though this Saints fan fantasy essentially ended when Byrd came to terms on an agreement with New Orleans, former Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware is off the market pending a physical, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. He agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract with Denver. Many Who Dats dreamed Ware would team up with Payton and Ryan, former coaches in Dallas.