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Saints release Shockey, open door for promising TE Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- For flamboyant tight end Jeremy Shockey, the party is over -- at least in New Orleans.

Shockey was released Tuesday by the Saints, who appear ready to move on with promising second-year pro and 2010 third-round draft choice Jimmy Graham.

Shockey was no stranger to the Big Easy social scene and also helped give the city a reason to celebrate like never before. He made a crucial touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the Saints' lone Super Bowl victory over Indianapolis in Miami just more than a year ago.

But with one season and $4.2 million in base salary left on Shockey's contract, the Saints decided the best way to pursue a second championship would be without the 30-year-old, nine-year veteran.

"Jeremy played an important role in helping our team bring a Super Bowl championship to New Orleans," coach Sean Payton said. "He contributed to the success of our offense, both as a pass-catcher and run blocker, and we're appreciative of his efforts."

Acquired from the New York Giants in a trade at the onset of 2008 training camp, Shockey spent three up-and-down seasons in New Orleans and labored through injuries in all of them.

Last season, Shockey made 41 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games.

Shockey's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not answer his phone, but Shockey posted a note on his Twitter page: "Always will remember my time in New Orleans. What a city, you all welcomed me like one of your own, and we had a great run. Onto the next chapter, the Deep Unknown."

Shockey, a former Miami Hurricanes star who makes his offseason home in Miami's South Beach, is an adventure traveler and avid free diver. While he played for the Giants, who made him a first-round draft pick in 2002, he was popular and productive, but also seen as a malcontent and a distraction by the time his stay in New York had ended.

In New Orleans, he rejoined Payton, who had been his offensive coordinator in New York during his rookie season, which remains one of his best seasons statistically, with 74 catches for 894 yards and two TDs.

After Shockey arrived in New Orleans, he often sidestepped reporters and for the most part avoided generating negative headlines.

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Not entirely, though. In 2008, he was critical of the team's handling of his sports hernia injury, which he contended was misdiagnosed. Off the field, he made news for being hospitalized after passing out because of dehydration at a pool-side party in Las Vegas in the summer of 2009.

As he looks for a new team, Shockey's resume includes 510 catches for 5,688 yards and 33 TDs in his nine-season career. The questions now are how many good seasons he has left and which teams want to take a chance on him.

In his three seasons in New Orleans, he caught 139 passes for 1,460 yards with six touchdowns in 38 regular season games, 34 of them starts.

Last season, Shockey made an effort to serve as a mentor for Graham, who also attended Miami, but entered college as a basketball player before a lone season of football with the 'Canes.

Graham improved steadily as the season wore on and became a trusted target for quarterback Drew Brees, who raved about his rapid development. Graham finished his rookie season with 31 catches for 356 yards and five touchdowns, with one play going for 52 yards.

Graham routinely credited Shockey for teaching him the NFL game and Saints officials said they appreciated not just Shockey's effort on game days, but his willingness to hasten the development of his understudy.

"I'd like to thank Jeremy for the contributions he made to our team," general manager Mickey Loomis said. "These decisions are never easy to make and we wish him the best."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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