Saints release Smith, Greer, Harper and Vilma

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The New Orleans Saints announced today that defensive end Will Smith, cornerback Jabari Greer, safety Roman Harper and linebacker Jonathan Vilma have been released from their contracts.

Smith, Greer and Harper combined to take up nearly $25.6 million in cap space. Vilma was not under contract for the 2014 season.

The Saints were over the salary cap by about $12.7 million before announcing the moves and are expected to use the available space to place the franchise tag on tight end Jimmy Graham or sign him to a contract extension.

"I have coached and been around a lot of great players and I put these four guys right there at the top," Saints head coach Sean Payton said in the team's official press release. "Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan all represent and epitomize what we look for in our players. They all played an important role in helping this team and this city win its first Super Bowl and they have all enjoyed multiple playoff appearances and wins."

Greer played five seasons with the Saints and started 10 games in 2013 before suffering a knee injury versus San Francisco on November 17.

Harper was drafted by the Saints in the second round of the 2006 draft. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is the only safety in franchise history to be a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2009 and '10).

Smith, who was drafted in 2004 by the Saints in the first round, missed the entire 2013 NFL season with a torn ACL.

Vilma was traded to the Saints in 2008 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010. He played in just one game during the 2013 season.

"These were not easy decisions to make," said Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis. "Since we acquired them, Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl.

"They were a great example to our players as team leaders in the locker room as well. However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014."

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.