NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints released six-time Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans, one of the key pillars of their Super Bowl championship team, along with linebackers David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber and receiver Seantavius Jones on Monday.
Evans' release comes as a mild surprise because the 32-year-old has been a 10-year starter and one of the greatest players in Saints franchise history. However, it's not a complete shock, given his age and the Saints' annual salary cap squeeze.
The Saints were roughly $10 million over the projected salary cap to start this offseason. They will save $3.1 million against the cap by releasing Evans, who was due a total of $4.9 million in salary and bonuses this year. A total of $3 million was scheduled to become fully guaranteed Wednesday.
The Saints will save another $3.15 million by releasing veteran linebackers Hawthorne and Humber.
The move likely came as a surprise to Evans, who expressed confidence late the past season that he wouldn't be going anywhere. Evans agreed to a significant pay cut to remain with the Saints last year.
Evans, a four-time first-team All-Pro selection, signed a seven-year, $56.7 million contract with the Saints in 2010. At the time, it was the richest contract for a guard in NFL history. Evans began his career as a fourth-round draft pick out of Bloomsburg.
Evans started the first 114 games of his career before he missed a contest due to injury. He has battled a series of nagging injuries in recent years, including knee and ankle injuries that sidelined him for five games the past season.
Evans' agent, Jerrold Colton, said Evans plans to continue playing elsewhere.
"Jahri has appreciated 10 great years," Colton said. "It's been a great run for a kid from Bloomsburg with a great city and a great organization. And he got to ride it out with one coach, one quarterback, a lot of the teammates he came in with. Too good to be true. It's sad that it's come to end, but now he's ready for the next chapter."
The Saints now have just four players remaining from their 2009 Super Bowl team: quarterback Drew Brees, receiver Marques Colston, offensive tackle Zach Strief and punter Thomas Morstead. They could consider parting ways with Colston, Strief and Morstead for similar age and salary reasons.
The Hawthorne and Humber releases are less surprising than Evans'. Hawthorne, 30, had been relegated to a backup role after starting for most of his first three seasons in New Orleans. He was due a total of $2.25 million in salary and bonuses. Humber was a longtime special teams standout and captain during his six years as a backup linebacker with the Saints. He was due $901,000.
With Monday's moves, the Saints added another $7.5 million in dead money to their whopping total of at least $25.8 million for 2016, including the expected release of cornerback Brandon Browner, which has not become official. That is by far the most in the NFL.