METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said releasing third-year linebacker Martez Wilson was a tough decision. But he said, “I think overall it was just trying to pay attention to production.”
“We had a chance to visit yesterday. I know that he’ll have another opportunity, and you want to see him do well,” said Payton, whose prediction proved correct when Wilson was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Raiders later in the day. “But those are the decisions that are tough oftentimes during the season.”
Wilson, who was drafted in the third round out of Illinois in 2011, is a standout athlete who showed great potential but was never able to find a fit while switching positions and defensive coordinators every year. He was released Tuesday when the Saints needed to free a roster spot to promote rookie quarterback Ryan Griffin to the active roster to keep him from being signed away by another quarterback-needy team.
Wilson’s closest friend on the team, outside linebacker Junior Galette, admitted it was a tough loss Wednesday -- and a reality check.
“Martez became my best friend, I feel like, on and off the field. It’s tough for me, but it’s the business we’re in,” said Galette, a former undrafted free agent in 2010 who is having his best season to date. “Football is a fun game, but that’s just a reminder it’s a serious business. Phenomenal athlete, probably the best athlete I’ve probably ever seen, 6-4, 255, can run sub 4.4, can do all the things that a NFL DB can do as far as running. That just goes to show, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every day and you have to produce at the end of the day.”
When asked why he thinks it didn’t work out for Wilson in New Orleans, Galette said, “That’s not really for me to comment on. I know he feels like, just from talking to him, he didn’t get the amount of opportunities he wanted. But listen, this is the business we’re in. And this might be the next Rob Ninkovich story (Ninkovich was released twice by the Saints before thriving with the New England Patriots).
“Like I told (Wilson), it might be the best thing for him. You might not see it right now, but everybody has their own path. You know, I had to wait three years to be where I’m at right now. And I still feel like I’ve got to keep working harder than I did before. So everybody has their own path, it’s just how you deal with the adversity he’s going through right now. You’ve got to rise above that.”
Griffin, meanwhile, declined to get into any details about any possible opportunities with other teams. He reportedly had an offer to sign with the St. Louis Rams.
"It's a good situation here and I believe in what we're doing here. I like what we're doing offensively and everything's good," said Griffin, who said he talked with Payton. "We just talked about, you know, kind of how he sees me in the future and where he sees me at. It was very encouraging, and so I'm just happy to be here."