NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints made their first major moves of what is expected to be a challenging off-season on Wednesday, releasing strong safety Roman Harper, outside linebacker and defensive end Will Smith, and cornerback Jabari Greer. Danny Santana Jersey . General manager Mickey Loomis also says the club does not intend to re-sign free-agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has been hampered by recurring knee injuries the past few seasons. "These were not easy decisions to make," Loomis said in written comments released by the club. "Since we acquired them, Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl. They were a great example to our players as team leaders in the locker room as well. "However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014," Loomis added. The Saints have said they intend to retain free-agent Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, either through a franchise tag or long-term extension, and both options will require financial flexibility. Wednesdays moves will save nearly $17 million in 2014. Saints coach Sean Payton said Smith, Harper, Vilma and Greer were "right there at the top" of all the great players he has coached or been around in his coaching career. "These are disciplined, smart, tough and team-oriented individuals," Payton said. "They all played an important role in helping this team and this city win its first Super Bowl and they have all enjoyed multiple playoff appearances and wins." Smith is a former first-round pick of the Saints in 2004 and had a team-leading 13 sacks during New Orleans Super Bowl season. However, he was widely expected to be released after this season, which he missed after tearing knee ligaments late in the preseason. He was scheduled to be paid $10.4 million in base salary alone this season. He has played in 139 games for the Saints, accumulating 67 1/2 career sacks. Harper was New Orleanss second round draft choice in 2006 and has since started 104 games. He went to Pro Bowls after the 2009 and 2010 season and his 17 career sacks are the most ever by a Saints defensive back. His base salary for 2014 was set at $2.35 million. As the moves became public, Harper posted a note on the social media website Twitter, thanking New Orleans fans for "the 8 years of .GreatMemories .WHODAT .SBXLIVCHAMPS." Greer, scheduled to earn $4 million in base salary next season, joined New Orleans as a free agent in 2009, immediately sliding into a starting role he held until a serious knee injury against San Francisco in mid-November, which ended his season. He intercepted nine passes in his five seasons in New Orleans, returning two for TDs. Vilma was acquired in a trade with the New York Jets in 2008. He led New Orleans in tackles during his first three season with the club and selected to Pro Bowls in 2009 and 2010. In 70 games with New Orleans, he was credited with 530 tackles, eight sacks, six interceptions, five forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. Last season, however, Vilma began the season on the physically unable to perform list because of his recurring knee problems. He returned for only one game before sitting out the rest of the season, and on Wednesday he seemed to be comfortable with the Saints decision not to engage him in further contract talks. On Twitter, he wrote: "Couple pro bowls and a superbowl ring later, I couldnt have written that chapter any better. .WhoDat" Like Smith, he was a defensive captain, but also like Smith, was implicated by the NFL as a ring-leader in a cash-for-hits bounty program that the league said the Saints ran from 2009-2011. Both players have always denied they ran a bounty pool as described by the NFL and successfully overturned suspensions. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, meanwhile, has maintained the leagues findings were accurate. Ronald Acuna Jr. Jersey . Adam Lind provided the power and rookie starter Marcus Stroman had the best start of his young career as the Blue Jays dumped the Yankees 8-3 at Rogers Centre. Stroman, making his fifth start for Toronto, allowed one earned run and three hits over a career-high eight innings. Kurt Suzuki Jersey . However, Jim Popp isnt sure how long hell be able to admire wide receiver Duron Carter. http://www.thebravesteamshop.com/Braves-Phil-Niekro-Kids-Jersey/ .com) - The Miami Heat stopped a four-game losing streak last time out and thats the same length slide their opponents Wednesday night, the Denver Nuggets, will try to halt when the two teams meet at the Pepsi Center.Novak Djokovic returned for the Shanghai Masters with his sights set on preventing Andy Murray from capturing the season-ending world number one spot. The Serb made his comeback with a 6-3 6-3 demolition of Fabio Fognini, his first match in a month after failing to defend his Beijing Open title due to an elbow problem, showing intent that he is ready to renew his dominance of the ATP Tour.That absence allowed Murray to put a 500-point dent in his lead, which is now down to just 1,555 in the Race to London rankings, with Djokovic defending 3,500 in the Shanghai and Paris Masters events plus the World Tour Finals. Djokovic is naturally rated the favourite to boost his rankings with the 1,000 points on offer, but his odds of 11/8 with Sky Bet are certainly more generous than usual amid doubts over motivation and fitness.Such concerns are the only explanation for him being odds-against given he has now won 39 or his last 40 matches in Asia and nine of the last 12 hard-court events entered in the last 12 months. Andy Murray celebrates his China Open win Writing off the Serb is typically a perilous position to take, with his final defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the US Open representing the first event in 2016 where he failed to respond to losing a match by claiming the following title on offer, having suffered a first-round loss at the Olympics.Murray is enjoying his best season to date but that is largely due to his form on clay and grass, with regular top-tier hard-court titles still eluding him. Sky Bet odds Will Djokovic master Murray again? Hes 5/2 to beat the Scot in the final here. The Scot has only won one Masters or Grand Slam title on the surface in question since the 2013 Miami Masters. In that period Djokovic has won 17.While the subjective may want to back 3/1 shot Murray to continue to hunt down Djokovic, the objective suggests that anything close to even-money on the Serb to win a hard-court event is bordering on a licence to print money.OTHER CONTENDERSPlenty will also want to take on the top two given Marin Cilic upset odds of 33/1 to win the last Masters event in Cincinnati, but we have not seen back-to-back winners of 1,000 events from outside the big four since 2010.More relevantly, there hasnt been back-to-back events without Djokovic or Murray claiming a title since 2013, when the absent Roger Federer won in Cincinnati and then Shanghai.US Open champion Wawrinka is deemed their main rival at 9/1 but he has produced his yearly big performance and lacks the same motivation as his rivals, with a World Tour Finals position secured and the number one spot beyond his reach.Fourth seed Rafael Naddal (16/1) has no such security as he sits eighth in the Race to London rankings, with Tomas Berdych (40/1) breathing down his neck. Ender Inciarte Jersey. However, the faster courts of the end to the season do not suit his game, hence semi-final runs here being a career best and it would be a surprise if he could improve on that record this week. Juan Martin del Potro crashed out of the Shanghai Masters on Tuesday 2013 finalist Juan Martin del Potro seemed to be a real threat to the top two as the only player to have beaten both this year but failed to get out of the blocks, losing in three sets to David Goffin on Tuesday.Milos Raonic is an 18/1 shot having struggled since his split with coach John McEnroe, but has qualified for the World Tour Finals despite withdrawing from Saturdays Beijing semi-final with Grigor Dimitrov with an ankle injury.The youthful options which may tempt are recent Japan winner Nick Kyrgios (28/1) and the rapidly-improving duo Alexander Zverev (25/1), who has already dumped Cilic out, and Lucas Pouille (50/1).THE DRAWSaturdays draw could not have been much kinder to Djokovic, with Berdych the top seed in his quarter and Nadal in his half. The Serb has won a remarkable 25 of 27 meetings with Berdych and the last seven against Nadal.Resurgent Beijing finalist Dimitrov (33/1) could await the Serb in the third round while Cilic looked Nadals main threat in the second quarter before Zverev reasserted suggestions that he is the real deal. Nadal and Djokovic are seeded to renew their great rivalry in the semis Murray is joined by sixth-seed Monfils, who responded to his heavily-criticised US Open semi-final loss to Djokovic by reaching the Tokyo semis, recording decent wins over Gilles Simon and Ivo Karlovic along the way.The other two main threats clashed in the first round, with Japan Open finalist David Goffin (50/1) getting the better of Del Potro is the first meeting between the pair.The third section is perhaps the most intriguing, with the ever inconsistent Wawrinka facing little opposition if Raonic is unable to recover in time.Kyle Edmund (300/1) is seeded to face the Swiss in the second round and a semi-final run could begin to look achievable if he can spring an upset there.PREDICTIONIm going to trust the renewed motivation to bring the best out of Djokovic and back him to put Murray back in his place by claiming a fourth title here in five years.Odds of 11/8 naturally lack appeal, so Im going to be a shade bolder by predicting that he will add to a 24-10 lead in their head-to-head for a 5/2 final forecast.You can watch Englands tour of Bangladesh, plus Premier League football and the British Masters on Sky Sports. 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