A clause in Alex Okafor‘s Saints contract will allow for the veteran edge defender to gauge his worth again. Okafor signed a two-year deal to stay with the Saints earlier this year, but by registering three sacks this season, he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent, Nick Underhill of The Advocate reports. The starter opposite Cameron Jordan all season, Okafor collected four sacks in New Orleans’ first 15 games. He has until 11am on the final day of the 2018 league year to notify the Saints if he is to opt out of the deal, Underhill adds. Okafor was a free agent in both 2017 and ’18. The Saints drafted Marcus Davenport in the 2018 first round and have Jordan signed through 2020. Okafor would count $4.85MM against the Saints’ 2019 cap.
Were he to opt out, there might be more money awaiting. Okafor has stayed healthy this season and has 8.5 sacks in his two Saints years. With the top-tier free agents-to-be likely not set to leave their current teams, Okafor and second-tier peers will be the next-best options for teams looking to the market to upgrade. Of course, he has not cleared 4.5 sacks since 2014, so expectations for the 27-year-old defender’s next deal should be tempered.
Here’s the latest out of New Orleans:
- On the subject of Saints who could become UFAs, Teddy Bridgewater is going to make his first start since a 2015 wild-card game. The Saints announced Bridgewater will start for Drew Brees. The Saints have already secured NFC home-field advantage. This game now becomes an interesting audition for a player who could be one of the most attractive free agent quarterbacks in March. Both Mike Zimmer and Bill Parcells, who serves as a mentor to Bridgewater, recommended the passer to Sean Payton, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes. The Saints sent a third-round pick to the Jets for Bridgewater, so it would make sense if they tried to keep him as the Brees heir apparent. But with several teams likely in the market for younger starter-level options, the Saints may not be able to afford Bridgewater, especially if he plays well against the Panthers.
- Against the Steelers, Terron Armstead aggravated the pectoral injury that caused him to miss five games. Unsurprisingly, the Saints’ left tackle starter is out for Sunday’s meaningless regular-season finale. It’s not clear how severe this setback was, but Armstead did not guarantee he would be back in time for New Orleans’ playoff opener in just more than two weeks. The Pro Bowl blocker hopes to return by then, Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com notes. Jermon Bushrod started for Armstead during his initial hiatus.
- These playoffs will be it for Ben Watson. The tight end playing another season could have made him the first pure tight end to play at age 39, unless Antonio Gates returns in 2019, but Watson will retire after the season — his 15th.