The Saints crossed a key item off their 2021 agenda earlier today by agreeing to a massive extension with right tackle Ryan Ramczyk. With that deal done, New Orleans can now turn its attention to the contract situations of several of its other high-profile talents.
Katherine Terrell of The Athletic writes that the Saints are likely to extend at least one of CB Marshon Lattimore and S Marcus Williams this summer. As Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com tweets, the Ramczyk extension cleared roughly $5.5MM off the club’s books for the 2021 season, so a Lattimore or Williams extension isn’t necessarily vital for cap purposes (plus, since Lattimore’s fifth-year option for this season was already restructured, an extension for him wouldn’t create more cap room anyway). But both players are integral pieces of DC Dennis Allen‘s defense, and the Saints would certainly like to keep them for the long haul if they can.
The problem is that New Orleans is already projected to be over the 2022 cap of $208.2MM, and GM Mickey Loomis might not be able to re-sign both of his young defenders. Terrell says Lattimore has always seemed like the higher priority, and as he plays a premium position and has three Pro Bowls to his credit, he will certainly be more expensive. On the other hand, he does not always play up to his potential, and Pro Football Focus’ metrics considered him the 70th-best corner out of 121 qualifiers last year. A March arrest could also complicate matters.
Loomis, though, has more time to talk contract with Lattimore than he does with Williams. As a franchise-tagged player, Williams cannot sign a multi-year deal after July 15. Given the Saints’ cap crunch, there was a belief that the team would not be able to retain the Utah product this year, let alone hit him with a franchise tag that carries a $10.6MM cap charge. The fact that Loomis made the financials work might be an indication of the team’s long-term outlook for Williams, who did well to clean up his one glaring weakness (his tackling abilities) in 2020.
In addition to Lattimore and Williams, left tackle Terron Armstead is also entering a contract year (his deal automatically voids in 2022). Terrell says it’s unclear what the Saints have in mind for their longtime blindside protector, but he will not come cheap either. We just saw soon-to-be 33-year-old Trent Williams pull down a $23MM/year deal, and Terrell suggests that Armstead — who will turn 30 in a few weeks — could shoot for a similar figure. With Ramcyzk now carrying a $19.2MM AAV and left guard Andrus Peat working on a $15MM/year pact, that would be a ton of money invested into the O-line.
We heard earlier this year that the Saints could let Armstead walk next offseason and shift Ramczyk to left tackle, and Terrell says that remains a possibility. Still, one would think that New Orleans will at least have serious discussions with Armstead about continuing what has been a very fruitful partnership.