"You know what this player means to me," said Payton. "Telling a player that we're letting him go is one of the toughest things I have to do as a coach, and it was particularly tough with him.
"We've been through a lot together, here and in New York (with the Giants), and he was as productive player for us and helped us reach our goals in New Orleans. So I view our three years together here as a win-win situation for him and for us. We returned big dividends on our investment and like I said, if he doesn’t find what he wants in free agency, we've left the door open for him to return."
Shockey, 30, apparently became expendable with the emergence of rookie tight end Jimmy Graham, the team's third-round draft choice from the University of Miami, who finished the season with 31 catches for 356 yards and five touchdowns.
The Saints are attempting to pare their salary cap in order to pay top dollar to quarterback Drew Brees and re-sign a number of unrestricted free agents who are critical to the future fortunes of the Saints, among them running back Pierre Thomas, tackle Jermon Bushrod, wide receiver Lance Moore, tight end David Thomas and strong safety Roman Harper.
"It's business, I understand that," said Shockey. "I'll just go play hard for someone else. Whoever gets me, it's going to be a steal."
by Ed Staton