One way or another, Darren Sproles likely will be wearing a new uniform when the 2014 season rolls around -- especially after the Saints committed to fellow running back Pierre Thomas with a contract extension Wednesday. Sproles has been stuck in that special NFL limbo between being traded and released, with the Saints trying their darndest to receive some sort of compensation for the 30-year-old back.
A report from ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday indicated that the Saints now "plan to trade Sproles" because of "heavy interest" in him. That is not the scenario Sproles prefers.
"I want to get released," Sproles told ESPN's Josina Anderson. "I don't want to be traded. I don't know where they would send me because I have no control over it and I want to be able to pick. The good thing is none of the teams I'm told they're talking to are terrible. It's more than two. I feel I should have more of an idea later on today."
Sproles has one year and $3.4 million in base salary left on his current contract. His cap hit sits at $4.2 million, perhaps too high for a team that still has to pay TE Jimmy Graham and Tuesday landed high-priced safety Jairus Byrd. Cutting or trading Sproles would leave just $750K of that price on the Saints' cap.
There is no grand revelation in Sproles' remarks -- just about any player would prefer to be a free agent over being traded. If there is a silver lining for Sproles, it's that a trade would keep his remaining contract on the books, whereas a release would strip him of that 2014 base salary and possibly force him to sign a lesser deal.
Sproles, who turns 31 in June, remains a valuable return man and pass-catching back; he has not topped 93 rushing attempts in any of his NFL seasons. There should be some market for him, particularly if an interested team already has a steady No. 1 RB in place and wants to complement him with the versatile Sproles. However, the running back market has been all but dead early in free agency, with Darren McFadden's low-risk re-signing in Oakland the only move of note there Tuesday.
So, are there really that many teams interested in trading for Sproles or are the Saints hoping to drum up some business? We should know the answer soon. And Sproles may be crossing his fingers that no team steps up with a trade offer.