The Saints’ starting center for the past four years, Max Unger will call it quits. The 10-year veteran will announce his retirement, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Unger now resides on the reserve/retired list, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
Traded from Seattle to New Orleans in the Jimmy Graham-headlined deal four years ago, Unger became one of the Saints’ constants. His 2018 Pro Bowl was the third of his career, with the other two such honors having come when he was a Seahawk.
A 2009 second-round pick, Unger started all 130 games in which he played. He was a key part of the Saints’ revitalized running game, helping Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram form one of the league’s best backfield tandems in years. The Saints still have the other four members of their past two starting offensive lines under contract — Terron Armstead, Larry Warford, Andrus Peat and Ryan Ramczyk — but now have a need at center. This comes after Peat’s fifth-year option salary ($9.6MM) became fully guaranteed earlier this week.
The Saints appear to have known about this for a bit, considering the team hosted free agent interior lineman Nick Easton on a visit. Easton, who has played center and guard, has yet to decide on his next home. However, the Vikings submitted an offer late this week.
Unger’s retirement stands to free up $6.95MM in cap space. In the final season of a four-year, $24.9MM contract, Unger was to count $8.7MM against New Orleans’ cap.
Cameron Tom and Will Clapp, a 2017 UDFA and a 2018 seventh-round pick, respectively, reside as the other centers on the Saints’ roster. They have a combined two games’ worth of starting experience. Though, turning to one of these two (or a to-be-determined rookie) would help the two-time reigning NFC South champions devote some additional resources elsewhere, with their line still housing two veteran salaries and now a fifth-year option price tag.
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