Brian Allee-Walsh

After Cameron Meredith’s departure, Saints face thin receiving corps in training camp

New Orleans Saints officials cut their losses Monday with the unceremonious release of unproductive wide receiver Cameron Meredith.

The move comes one day after Meredith posted on his instagram account, “It’s been fun,’‘ and only hours after the team completed its first training camp practice in pads Sunday.

Meredith, 26, appeared to make it through the first three days of practice injury free, suggesting he leaves New Orleans in better shape than when he first arrived in April 2018 after the Chicago Bears declined to match the Saints curious two-year, $9.6 million offer sheet.

He showed up in New Orleans on mended knee after suffering a significant injury in training camp with Chicago in 2017. He never found his mojo with the Saints last season, catching nine passes for 114 yards and one touchdown in six games. He finished the season on IR because of nagging swelling and soreness in his surgically repaired knee.

He also did not participate in the team’s off-season program and Organized Team Activities.

Meredith’s biggest contribution in New Orleans comes in the amount of dead money against the Saints salary cap. After all the addition and subtraction, he now counts a team-high $3.25 million in dead dollars, slightly more than runner-up tight end Coby Fleener ($3.2 million).

And while the Saints did overpay to pry Meredith away from the Bears — first-year Chicago general manager Ryan Pace by way of New Orleans only tendered Meredith a one-year, original round offer of $1.907 million — the mistake pales in terms of bad signings, say, when compared to the six-year, $56 million contract given safety Jairus Byrd in 2014.

That said, a bust is a bust.

Meredith’s departure keeps the Saints wide receiver position in the NFL headlines during the early days of camp.

Monday marked Day 4 of Michael Thomas’ holdout with no apparent end in sight. Thomas, who’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, is angling to become the game’s highest paid wide receiver at $20 million annually.

Thomas is scheduled to make a base salary of $1.14 million this season.

With Thomas out and Meredith now on the street, the Saints are left with only four wide receivers — Ted Ginn Jr., Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood and Austin Carr — on the current roster who caught passes from quarterback Drew Brees last season.

But hope springs eternal.

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Emmanuel Butler (6-4, 220) from Northern Arizona is turning heads on a daily basis and could get more practice and exhibition snaps to help his cause the longer Thomas remains AWOL. Other hopefuls include newbies Cyril Grayson Jr., Simmie Cobbs Jr., Deonte Harris, Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and veteran Rishard Matthews.

Stay tuned. It’s still early. Training camp isn’t even a week old.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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