Saints Decline Cesar Ruiz’s Fifth-Year Option

While not a Pro Bowler, Cesar Ruiz has been a starter for most of his Saints career. That places the fourth-year guard on the third tier of the CBA’s fifth-year option structure. As a result, the Saints are passing on Ruiz’s 2024 option, Ian Rapoport of tweets.

Had New Orleans followed through with the option pickup, Ruiz would have made $14.18MM in 2024. The NFL’s franchise and transition tag formula is used to calculate options, and it still places all offensive linemen under one umbrella. With tackle contracts inflating this price annually, interior O-linemen’s fifth-year options become more onerous — seeing as the 2020 CBA made them fully guaranteed — for teams.

The Saints passing on Ruiz’s option does not mean this partnership will end after four seasons, but the Michigan alum is now set for a contract year. Ruiz will earn $2.34MM in base salary this season and is tied to a cap number just north of $4MM. The Saints are positioned rely on the former No. 24 overall pick as their right guard again in 2023.

Primarily a center with the Wolverines, Ruiz has played guard as a pro. Erik McCoy‘s center entrenchment slid Ruiz to guard as a rookie, and despite not having played the position since his freshman year of college, Ruiz has started 40 games for the Saints. Pro Football Focus has not viewed Ruiz as an upper-echelon guard in any of his three seasons, slotting him just outside the top 50 at the position from 2020-22, and the 6-foot-4 blocker is coming off an injury-shortened season. A foot injury ended Ruiz’s 2022 slate after 14 games.

Ruiz, 23, played every snap for the Saints in 2021 and logged a 100% snap rate in the 14 games before being shut down last season. The Saints have McCoy, left guard Andrus Peat and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk signed to long-term extensions. The team has continued to make big investments in its O-line, drafting left tackle Trevor Penning in last year’s first round. Assuming Penning becomes a full-time starter in his second season, he makes it five homegrown first- or second-round picks comprising New Orleans’ O-line.

With a 2024 franchise tag not realistic for Ruiz, the Saints will have a decision to make on him before next year’s legal tampering period begins in March. The team did trade up to No. 103 to start Saturday’s fourth round, selecting Old Dominion O-lineman Nick Saldiveri. While Saldiveri worked as Old Dominion’s primary right tackle in recent years, he repped as an interior blocker at the Senior Bowl.

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