In one sense, the New Orleans Saints have been through this already in recent years -- needing to trim more than $20 million from their salary cap by the start of the league year on March 11. However, this next month will likely be the most emotionally-challenging yet in the era of general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton.

It’s entirely possible the Saints could part ways with up to nine of the 13 players remaining from their Super Bowl roster.

Four are unrestricted free agents (safety Malcolm Jenkins, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, offensive tackle Zach Strief and receiver Robert Meachem). Five others could become salary-cap casualties (defensive end Will Smith, cornerback Jabari Greer, safety Roman Harper, receiver Lance Moore and running back Pierre Thomas).

The four Super Bowl vets who are most likely to stay on the roster are quarterback Drew Brees, guard Jahri Evans, receiver Marques Colston and punter Thomas Morstead.

It’s not exactly the end of an era -- since the Saints are still bona fide Super Bowl contenders, led by Payton and Brees, and since they have done a great job of continually reshaping a talented roster. But it’s awfully close.

Payton made a point to emphasize some of the tough decisions that are looming when he was asked about the pending contract negotiations with free agent tight end Jimmy Graham on Fox Sports 1 last week.

"The most challenging part of your job as a coach, and I share that with Mickey or anyone that has been with an organization as long as we have been, going on year nine, is some of the tough decisions that have to be made with regards to your cap with the ability that you possibly can sign Jimmy Graham,” Payton said. “It's very easy to say 'You are certainly going to get this done.' But you have to understand there is a budget here. That's the challenging part. You are going to read these names that have already come across the ticker from Atlanta last week (the release of cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas), and we will be no different."