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AP source: Saints tell Sproles he won't return

AP - Sports
AP source: Saints tell Sproles he won't return
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New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles (43) against the Seattle Seahawks during an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Seattle, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A person familiar with the situation says Darren Sproles has been informed that the Saints will release him if they are unable to trade him before free agency begins.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the club's decision, first reported by NFL.com, has not been made public.

New Orleans' decision to part with Sproles is the latest in a series of cost-cutting moves, including Friday's release of receiver Lance Moore.

Sproles, used as a running back, receiver and return specialist, is due $3.4 million in base salary in 2014. Moore was due $3.1 million.

The moves give the Saints more flexibility under the NFL's salary cap as they try to sign free agent tight end Jimmy Graham to an extension.

Before the Moore move was announced, Moore all but confirmed it with a note on Twitter, writing, ''Thank you New Orleans for an amazing nine years. Who Dat Nation, the best on earth!!!''

In the past month, the Saints have cut defensive end Will Smith, safety Roman Harper and cornerback Jabari Greer, who were all starters on New Orleans' 2009 Super Bowl team. In addition, the Saints have said they would not bring back free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma, a former defensive captain who has been hampered by knee injuries in recent seasons.

''Just like some of the decisions we made on the defensive side of the ball a few weeks ago, this move today is just as difficult,'' general manager Mickey Loomis said. ''Lance was very important to our productivity on offense and our success as a team overall. ... You couldn't ask for more from Lance both on and off the field and we wish him the best of luck.''

Sproles joined the Saints as a free agent in 2011, setting an NFL record for total yards in a season with 2,696.

Last season, Sproles, who routinely catches passes out of the backfield, accounted for 604 yards and two touchdowns receiving to go with 220 yards and two TDs rushing. He returned 29 punts, with his longest return going for 28 yards, and ran back 12 kickoffs, none for more than 32 yards.

Moore entered the NFL with Cleveland as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo in 2005 and joined the Saints' practice squad later that season.

''Lance Moore made a significant contribution to our team's success,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said. ''While his production on paper is obvious, it only tells half the story. Lance came to us an undrafted rookie who went to NFL Europe and spent time on our practice squad. He went on to produce outstanding results on the field for us as a result of his work ethic, reliability and commitment to get better every day. He's been one of the pillars of what we have built here as an organization.''

In 2008, he was New Orleans' leading receiver with 79 catches for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns.

While he was hurt for much of the 2009 season, he returned in time to help the Saints win their only championship. He made a difficult catch and dived for the pylon on a 2-point conversion that gave New Orleans a 24-17 lead over Indianapolis in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. The Saints went on to win by two touchdowns after Tracy Porter's late interception return for a score.

Moore had his last 1,000-yard season in 2012, when he made 65 catches for 1,021 yards and six TDs.

Last season, however, Moore began to lose playing time to rookie receiver Kenny Stills and finished with 37 catches for 457 yards and two TDs, his lowest output in four seasons.

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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