NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - When the voice of the Saints, Jim Henderson, thinks of Pierre Thomas, one image comes to mind.
"Probably taking the screen pass inside the 20 and taking it to the house. He did everything that was asked of him."
As one of the most dependable players on the Saints' roster, Thomas caught 327 passes, rushed for over 3700 yards and scored 40 touchdowns in eight seasons in New Orleans. But his days wearing the black and gold are now over.
The team released the 30-year-old Wednesday. Henderson wasn't completely shocked given his age and injury history.
"He kind of fits the profile of guys that do get cut or asked to move elsewhere in his career," Henderson said. "Running back at 30 years old, that's usually the line of demarcation where most people around the NFL think the running back has seen his better days. Look at Stephen Jackson in Atlanta, people elsewhere, and you look at the Saints last year getting rid of Darren Sproles, sending him to Philadelphia for that fifth-round draft choice. Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins had to leave as well around the 30-year mark. So I can't say I'm terribly surprised in that respect, but certainly his leadership and his smile in the locker room will be missed as much as anything."
And leadership has become a focal point for the Saints this offseason. Sean Payton even acknowledged his team's lack of it as a big reason for their 7-9 2014 season. But Henderson said that leadership didn't outweigh the cost of keeping Thomas.
"I think it all comes down to the Saints problems with their salary cap. There's not much room for sentiment any longer in the NFL and certainly when you are up against it as drastically as the Saints are," Henderson said. "It's a difficult time when you have to do these things with players like Pierre Thomas, and I think if he is gone, he will be this year's version of Darren Sproles. And if he is this year's version of Darren Sproles, he'll go elsewhere and have a pretty good year."