Two weeks before the start of the legal tampering period, the Saints are a staggering $69MM-plus over a projected $180MM cap. The franchise has continually faced difficult cap situations, only to navigate them and still manage to bolster its roster — as it did last year via Emmanuel Sanders and Malcolm Jenkins. But this year’s situation presents a final boss-type challenge for New Orleans’ front office.
No other team is within $25MM of the Saints’ present payroll obligations, with the Eagles residing as the league’s only other franchise more than $40MM over the projected cap. The Saints will go through an eventful two weeks to comply with the cap, though the NFL’s in-progress TV deals could help the organization to a degree. It is not certain yet where the 2021 cap will land, which has halted NFL activity to a degree.
Part of one of the best draft classes any team has put together in many years, Williams has been a starter since arriving in the 2017 third round. Pro Football Focus has graded him as a top-eight player at his position in three of his four seasons, including 2020. While 2017 draft classmate Trey Hendrickson figures to have a market as well, Williams has reeled off a much longer run of production with the Saints. Mickey Loomis has acknowledged keeping Hendrickson will be tough.
Williams stands as one of the league’s top free agents, with he and Justin Simmons perhaps residing as the top safeties available. The Broncos are set to make Simmons unavailable, via the franchise tag, which would take a key target off the board. The Jets are also likely to take Marcus Maye off the market via the tag. While other safeties may well be available — from Anthony Harris to Keanu Neal to John Johnson — Williams may be the top prize at this position, should he hit the market. As PFR’s Rory Parks noted recently, a Williams tag — in the $10MM vicinity — will be off the table, meaning the Saints would need to have him extended by March 15 to avoid the talented defender negotiating with other teams.
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