Saints lose Bushrod, Daniel; Smith Vilma get new deals
METAIRIE - New Orleans defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma agreed to restructure their contracts in order to remain with New Orleans and reserve linebacker Will Herring was released after two seasons with the club.
The Chicago Bears agreed to a five-year contract with New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod and Kansas City agreed to a deal with former Saints backup quarterback Chase Daniel.
The 31-year-old Smith and 30-year-old Vilma, both veteran defensive captains who were implicated in the NFL's bounty probe, would have consumed about $23 million combined in salary cap space had they not agreed to new deals before the new league year and free agency.
Bushrod was drafted in the fourth round by New Orleans in 2007. He started on the Saints' 2009 championship team and made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons.
Daniel has spent the past three years backing up Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Both players have been captains for several seasons and were also statistical leaders on the 2009 Super Bowl team. They spent nearly all of last season successfully working to overturn suspensions NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had given them in connection with the league's investigation of the Saints' cash-for-hits bounty program administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The Saints, who have hired Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator, are switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme in which Vilma struggled with the Jets. Coach Sean Payton, however, has said recently that he believes Vilma and Smith could adapt to the Saints' 3-4 scheme, because the club often used variations of a 3-4 defense in certain situations during recent seasons.