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New Orleans Saints News

News » Saints cut ties with veteran McKenzie

Saints cut ties with veteran McKenzie

Saints cut ties with veteran McKenzie
The Saints released veteran cornerback Mike McKenzie on Thursday as they continued to revamp their much-maligned secondary.

Although McKenzie had been one of the most productive and popular defensive backs during his five-year stint with the Saints, the 32-year-old has had two major knee injuries in the past two years and was scheduled to earn $4.575 million in salary and bonuses this season.

The Saints signed younger free-agent cornerback Jabari Greer earlier this month, and they added another veteran presence to their secondary Wednesday when they signed free-agent safety Darren Sharper.

It's unclear if the Saints offered McKenzie the chance to stay at a reduced salary or simply decided to cut ties with him now that they have improved their depth at cornerback. McKenzie declined to comment, and Saints officials offered only a brief statement.

"Decisions such as these are the hardest to make in this business," General Manager Mickey Loomis said in the statement. "Mike has been a standout performer for the Saints both on and off the field during his career with the Saints. We wish him well in his future and thank him for all of his efforts representing the Saints."

McKenzie is the latest in a series of popular veterans to leave New Orleans this offseason. Tailback Deuce McAllister, fullback Mike Karney and receiver David Patten have also been released.

Greer, Tracy Porter and Randall Gay are expected to begin the offseason as the top three cornerbacks on the Saints' depth chart, followed by Usama Young, Jason David and Leigh Torrence. David, however, is another veteran who could be released at some point.

Other veterans who could be in jeopardy include defensive tackles Brian Young and Hollis Thomas, safety Kevin Kaesviharn and guard Jamar Nesbit. But the Saints created breathing room under the salary cap by unloading McKenzie's lofty salary.

McKenzie's recent injuries to his right knee -- a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2007 and a fractured kneecap last November -- undoubtedly factored in the Saints' decision. But McKenzie described his health as "great" earlier this month, saying that he was working out and running and that he had planned to be at full speed when the team begins its offseason conditioning program at the end of March.

"This doesn't compare at all to an ACL," McKenzie said then. "As always, health is the key. I just want to keep getting stronger and be ready to roll."

McKenzie started 64 games for the Saints, including the playoffs, after arriving in a midseason trade with the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 4, 2004. He recorded 12 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, and was credited with 58 pass defenses and one forced fumble.

He was having one of the best seasons of his career in 2007 before he the ACL tear in Week 16. He returned last year, playing in seven games with one interception before fracturing the kneecap.

McKenzie was equally valuable off the field. He was recognized as the Saints' 2007 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work with underprivileged youth through his "34 Ways Foundation."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 20, 2009

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Nathan Jones Name: Nathan Jones
Position: CB
Age: 26
Experience: 5 years
College: Rutgers
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