Sproles wants release from Saints, not trade

Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTONSaints running back Darren Sproles tackled by Eagles cornerback Cary Williams during last season's playoff game.
Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTONSaints running back Darren Sproles tackled by Eagles cornerback Cary Williams during last season's playoff game.

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 me because I have no control over it, and I want to be able to pick.

“The good thing is none of the teams I’m told they’re talking to are terrible. It’s more than two. I feel I should have 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 because of interest from at least 10 teams. It was initially said he would be cut and allowed to become a free agent 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.

Salary cap expert Joel Corry on Wednesday reported Byrd’s contract carries $26.3 million in guarantees. His 2014 cap number is $3.5 million.

Sproles bid farewell to New Orleans via Twitter on Friday, and his departure seems virtually certain in light of the Saints giving a two-year extension to his fellow running back Pierre Thomas. The extension, which hadn’t officially been processed Wednesday, should lower Thomas’ cap figure.

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

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

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.

Thomas stays in N.O.

Saints fans worried that Thomas would become the latest New Orleans veteran could stop fretting Wednesday morning.

That’s when Thomas’ agent announced via Twitter that the Saints had given his client an extension.

“PT will remain a Saint,” agent Lamont Smith said. “2 year extension. Congrats to the Saints and PT. Time to fly.”

The Saints then confirmed of Thomas’ extension. And, early Wednesday afternoon, the fan-favorite said via Twitter, “Glad to be back in the black & gold!!”

Thomas went from being an undrafted rookie in 2007 to scoring two touchdowns on the night the Saints won their first NFC championship in 2009. He told The Advocate in 2013 he considered that to be the game of his life.

Two weeks after that, he scored the Saints’ first touchdown on the night they won Super Bowl XLIV. After his seven seasons, his 3,523 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns are fourth and fifth all-time for the franchise. A master at the screen pass, a valuable tool in the Saints’ offensive attack, Thomas also has 2,230 receiving yards on 282 catches and is just 13 grabs away from becoming the club’s all-time leader for receptions by a running back.

There was intense speculation Thomas could be cut to save some $2.9 million in cap space. Several of his fellow Super Bowl champions were cut — wide receiver Lance Moore was let go Friday; and in February, defensive veterans Jabari Greer, Roman Harper and Will Smith were all released.

Jenkins grateful to N.O.

As safety Malcolm Jenkins tells it, the Saints never spoke to him about returning for the 2014 season.

But that doesn’t make the Philadelphia Eagles’ new free-agent acquisition any less thankful about the five seasons he spent in New Orleans, where he got to know his wife (Morissa), had a daughter and ran a foundation dedicated to serving underprivileged youth.

In an email sent to The Advocate through a publicist, Jenkins — a first-round draft pick for New Orleans who helped the franchise win its lone championship at the end of his rookie season — said, “The Saints gave me the opportunity to enter this league, play among great players and for great fans, and win a Super Bowl. ... I am grateful for my time there.”