Saints release guard Larry Warford after 3 Pro Bowl seasons

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints released Pro Bowl right guard Larry Warford on Friday, saving the team more than $7 million in salary-cap space and paving the way for first-round draft pick Cesar Ruiz to earn a starting job.

Warford, who turns 29 next month, made the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons with the Saints after they signed him away from the Detroit Lions with a four-year, $34 million contract in 2017.

It became evident New Orleans was considering a change after it re-signed left guard Andrus Peat to a lucrative extension in free agency and selected Ruiz with the 24th overall pick in last month's NFL draft.

The Saints said either Ruiz or second-year center Erik McCoy could make the switch to guard.

"Obviously, we think one of them is going to be a guard, because we weren't drafting someone that high to come in and be a backup," Saints coach Sean Payton said after Ruiz was drafted, adding that Warford was "gonna have to compete."

Warford posted a farewell note to the Saints organization and to fans on his Twitter account Friday night.

The Saints created some much-needed cap room with Friday's move after starting the day with less than $4 million in salary-cap space. They will need about $2 million of that space to account for their draft class, and they also need to prepare for possible long-term extensions with stars such as Alvin Kamara, Ryan Ramczyk, Marshon Lattimore and Demario Davis in the near future.

Warford was due a base salary of $7.65 million in the final year of his contract. He already received a $750,000 roster bonus earlier this offseason and was due a $100,000 workout bonus. Warford's contract will still count as $5.125 million in dead money against the cap.

The 6-foot-3, 317-pound Warford began his career as a third-round pick with the Lions out of Kentucky in 2013 and became an immediate starter. He has started 101 regular-season games, including 44 over the past three years in New Orleans. He also started five playoff games with the Saints.