“I wasn’t expecting it, Meredith told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Monday. “It’s on to the next chapter though. I’m good. Just a lot of stuff going on in New Orleans now and they needed to make a move. I’m sure there are teams that need a wide receiver now.”
The former Chicago Bears standout was hoping to finally return from a major 2017 knee injury, but Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis both said it came down to a numbers issue at the position.
“The injury he had set him back, and then some of these younger guys now have just been doing a good enough job. And it’s hard with the numbers,” Payton said. “It’s unfortunate because he’s someone that has worked hard, he’s worked his tail off. And yet it was gonna be hard for him to catch this group of younger guys that are competing.”
Meredith was spotted jogging off the field early on Sunday and later posted on Instagram, “It’s been fun.”
When asked if Meredith had suffered any new soreness or swelling, Payton said, “Well, there was always that up and down, but he cleared [his physical] and was back full-go. And it was still a matter of us really looking at the roster fit.”
The Saints won’t save much cash or salary-cap space by releasing Meredith, who had already agreed to a pay cut of $2.1 million to stay with the team in March. He was due to receive $1.3 million in base salary, with $500,000 fully guaranteed.
Meredith, 26, originally signed a two-year, $9.5 million deal with the Saints as a restricted free agent in 2018, and the Bears decided not to match their offer.
The Bears’ decision raised eyebrows at the time, since Meredith had 66 catches for 888 yards and four touchdowns with Chicago in 2016. But Bears general manager Ryan Pace explained that the input from Chicago’s medical and training staff led to the team’s decision after Meredith tore his ACL and other ligaments during the 2017 preseason.
Unfortunately for both Meredith and the Saints, the Bears’ outlook proved to be prescient.
Meredith wound up playing in just six games with the Saints last season, catching nine passes for 114 yards and one touchdown before he was placed on injured reserve because of nagging swelling and soreness in the knee.
Meredith also did not participate in OTAs and minicamp this summer, telling ESPN he was being cautious so he could be fully healthy for training camp and a full 16-game season.
“I’m sorry that it didn’t work out with Cam,” Loomis told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday. “He’s a great person; he’s a really good receiver. It just didn’t work out here, and it comes down to a numbers game.”
The Saints’ wide receiver depth is still unproven behind projected starters Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. They do have a number of intriguing candidates for the remaining roster spots, including Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Simmie Cobbs Jr., Austin Carr, recently signed veteran Rishard Matthews and undrafted rookie Emmanuel Butler, who has been the breakout star in the first few days of training camp.
Butler, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder from Northern Arizona, seems to make one or two standout catches every day in practice and has drawn consistent praise from coaches.
The Saints filled Meredith’s roster spot by signing veteran offensive lineman Patrick Omameh.