Terron Armstead

Saints Planning To Let Terron Armstead Test Free Agency?

The Saints have continually prioritized their offensive line, which currently consists of four former first-round picks and ex-second-rounder Erik McCoy. They made a major tackle decision this offseason, however, and may be prepared to part ways with a longtime contributor in 2022.

New Orleans is planning to let longtime left tackle Terron Armstead play out his contract and hit free agency, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. The Saints extended Armstead back in May of 2016; that five-year deal expires after this season.

Due to a contract restructure that introduced a void year into the equation, Fowler adds Armstead cannot be franchise-tagged. This would put the Saints to a higher-stakes decision, one that resembles the 49ers’ situation with Trent Williams this year. San Francisco paid up to keep Williams, signing the perennial Pro Bowler to an offensive line-record contract. At 30, Armstead is three years younger than Williams and will certainly aim high if he hits free agency for the first time.

This scenario playing out would not keep the Saints from re-signing Armstead. But they gave right tackle Ryan Ramczyk a top-market deal this summer; that $19.2MM-per-year pact came in much higher than Armstead’s 2016 extension ($13MM AAV). Ramczyk’s contract also contains an interesting provision. If Ramczyk earns first- or second-team All-Pro acclaim at left tackle, he earns a $1MM bonus and will see his annual salaries bumped up by $1MM.

The Saints could avoid that path by re-signing Armstead, but given Williams’ example, it will be difficult to keep the three-time Pro Bowl left tackle off the market. Fellow 2013 left tackle draftee David Bakhtiari raised the salary ceiling beyond $23MM per year on his 2021 extension, leading to Williams topping it. With the salary cap set to spike toward $210MM in 2022, Armstead will stand in a good position — barring a major injury setback this season — come March. Letting Armstead walk would also help the Saints plan a deal for McCoy, who will enter a contract year in 2022.

Armstead hitting free agency would make him one of the top players available. By trimming $100MM-plus in cap space and finding room for a Marcus Williams franchise tag, the Saints showed this year they will create space for players they deem essential. After extending Ramczyk and Marshon Lattimore, will they end up letting both Armstead and Williams walk?

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Saints Likely To Extend At Least One Of Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams

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.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 12/9/20

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

  • Signed: K Lirim Hajrullahu

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers 

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Football Team

Terron Armstead Confirms Positive COVID-19 Test

Taysom Hill will not have his most accomplished blocker in front of him Sunday in Denver. Terron Armstead confirmed reports he has tested positive for COVID-19 (Twitter link).

Armstead learned of his positive test Saturday morning, putting him in line to next week’s game against the Falcons as well. The Saints will be without their starting left tackle and quarterback for a bit. They are already without left guard starter Andrus Peat.

A full-time Saints starter since his second season (2014), the former third-round pick has become one of the league’s best O-linemen. Armstead has served as a vital component of Alvin Kamara‘s breakthrough, making the past two Pro Bowls as the longest-tenured member of New Orleans’ high-end O-line.

James Hurst stands to be the next man up. The former Ravens starter has served as the Saints’ swing tackle this season, starting twice in place of standout right tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

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Saints Restructure Contracts Of Michael Thomas, Terron Armstead

The Saints are clearing up some cap space. New Orleans has restructured the contracts of receiver Michael Thomas and offensive tackle Terron Armstead, a source told Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football (Twitter link).

Underhill adds that they haven’t restructured Janoris Jenkins‘ deal yet, but that it’s a possibility moving forward. The Saints are clearly going all in on 2020 and one or two last rides with Drew Brees, and they’re trying to maximize this window. We just heard that almost all of the money going to Brees this year is a signing bonus in order to reduce his 2020 cap hit, and now they’re getting even more flexibility.

It’s unclear exactly what financial tweaks were made to Thomas and Armstead’s deals, although it’s likely they just had 2020 salary converted to signing bonus money to spread out the cap hits over the duration of their respective contracts. Thomas signed a massive five-year, $100MM extension last July that made him the highest-paid receiver of all time.

The record-breaking wideout is under contract through the 2024 season, and will be in New Orleans long after Brees finally hangs up his cleats. Armstead signed a five-year, $65MM extension back in 2016, and is signed through the 2021 campaign. He had $10.2MM in salary converted to a signing bonus in November of 2018 to create the cap space to sign Dez Bryant.

The Saints added another veteran player earlier today in safety Malcolm Jenkins, giving them more ammo for their 2020 run. With Tom Brady now in the division, the NFC South is about to get a lot tougher.

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NFC Notes: Armstead, Floyd, Cowboys

Terron Armstead missed only one game because of a high ankle sprain he suffered in November, but the Pro Bowl Saints tackle is also dealing with a wrist injury that may require offseason surgery. Armstead underwent a CT scan recently, and although it showed no broken bones or ligament damage, the seven-year veteran acknowledged an offseason procedure is not off the table.

As far as ligament damage, tendon damage, it’s more of a, ‘If it’s still feeling like this or you can’t pick up anything in two weeks, we got to go further,'” Armstead said, via NOLA.com’s Amie Just.

Although Armstead made the trip to Orlando for the Pro Bowl, he did not play in Sunday’s game. The Saints have their left tackle under contract for two more seasons.

Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • If the Bears do not release Leonard Floyd, he will be on their books for $13.2MM — once his fifth-year option vests. With Khalil Mack‘s cap number spiking to $26.6MM — from an $11.9MM figure in 2019 — that would mean the Bears would have approximately a fifth of their salary cap tied to two players. But Ryan Pace‘s indications thus far have been Floyd will be a Bear next season, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes. If, in fact, the Bears do retain Floyd, it would seemingly behoove them to extend the 2016 first-rounder or restructure Mack’s deal to lower one of the pass rushers’ cap numbers. Floyd recorded just three sacks this season and has not eclipsed 4.5 since his 2016 rookie year.
  • Mike McCarthy hired a longtime coworker to join him in Dallas. The Cowboys are bringing in ex-Packers staffer Rob Davis to be an assistant head coach, according to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News. A longtime NFL long snapper, Davis worked in the private sector over the past two years but served as the Packers’ director of player development from 2006-17.
  • Signs are pointing to the Packers letting linebacker Blake Martinez walk in free agency.

Tackle Notes: Saints, Bulaga, Bolles, Eagles

The Saints have encountered more offensive line injury trouble, and it comes at a bad time. Left tackle Terron Armstead is believed to have suffered a high ankle sprain, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The standout blocker will miss Thursday’s game against the Falcons, and while New Orleans’ subsequent mini-bye would give the seventh-year blocker a chance to return against the 49ers, these are usually multi-week injuries. With left guard Andrus Peat sidelined with a broken arm, the Saints may be missing the left side of their high-end offensive line when they face the 49ers’ dominant pass rush in Week 14. Journeyman Patrick Omameh, whom the Giants cut after his short run as one of their guard starters, replaced Armstead on Sunday.

A lot of news affecting tackles around the league has emerged. Here is the latest:

  • Bryan Bulaga‘s knee injury appears to be a minor issue. The Packers‘ longtime right tackle left Sunday night’s game in San Francisco, but Rapoport notes (via Twitter) he is believed to be battling an MCL sprain instead of ACL trouble. Bulaga will likely miss some time but looks to be able to return this season.
  • As an Eagles season with Super Bowl aspirations veers closer to one of the more disappointing campaigns in recent NFL history, Philadelphia at least will likely have its Pro Bowl right tackle back this week. Lane Johnson expects to be cleared from concussion protocol on Tuesday, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Johnson missed Sunday’s loss against the Seahawks.
  • Vic Fangio appears ready to either bench underwhelming left tackle Garett Bolles or minimize his playing time. The Broncos’ first-year coach said Monday he’s going to shake up left tackle, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. This will be contingent on right tackle Ja’Wuan James‘ availability. Fangio said the seldom-seen free agent signing has been cleared from his latest injury, but it doesn’t look like James is a lock to return to action. He would likely play right tackle, with current right tackle Elijah Wilkinson shifting to the left side. If James returns, Bolles may be set for the first benching of his three-year career. The former first-round pick has not come especially close to living up to expectations, and the Broncos are unlikely to pick up his fifth-year option.
  • The Bears will be without their right tackle for a bit. Bobby Massie suffered a high ankle sprain against the Giants and will miss a few weeks, Rapoport tweets. This is Massie’s fourth season as Chicago’s starting right tackle; he re-signed this offseason on a four-year extension. Massie has only missed two games in his Bears tenure.
  • After their third straight 34-point game, the Jets are likely to have to again reconfigure their offensive line. Rookie right tackle Chuma Edoga suffered an MCL sprain, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (on Twitter). Adam Gase confirmed the 2019 draftee is dealing with an MCL issue and is week-to-week. The Jets have made numerous changes on their offensive front this season. Benched right tackle Brandon Shell, who came in for Kelvin Beachum after he suffered an ankle malady Sunday, may be called upon to re-enter the lineup. Beachum suffered a sprained ankle but may not miss any time.

Saints Rumors: Okafor, Teddy, Armstead

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.

Extra Points: Ravens, Griffin, Texans, Saints

It’s been a long road for Robert Griffin III. After he was released by the Redskins, Griffin wound up in Cleveland as the Browns’ starting quarterback in 2016. He was immediately injured and ended up playing only a few games, and was released after the year. After that he spent the entire 2017 season out of football, and it looked like his career might be coming to an end. But then Griffin inked a deal with the Ravens out of nowhere this past spring, and made the team. While he’s been the third stringer behind Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson and inactive most of the season, Griffin is just happy to be back in the league, and he described his journey in a recent sit down with Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

“It’s been special because I was not guaranteed a roster spot at the beginning of the year. I had a non-guaranteed contract, a minimal signing bonus and I had to earn it every step of the way”, Griffin said. Griffin was projected to be cut by most analysts because John Harbaugh has very rarely kept three quarterbacks on the active roster, but he had an impressive preseason and earned a spot. Zrebiec writes the Ravens first became interested in the former Heisman Trophy winner in the summer of 2017, but Griffin thought the timing wasn’t right. Griffin also reflected on his experience losing his job in Washington to Kirk Cousins while he was out with an injury, and how it relates to what Flacco is going through right now. The whole conversation is definitely worth a read.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Texans have been very impressive this year, but they still have a bunch of holes on the roster as they look to build around Deshaun Watson. The team could use help on the offensive line and in the secondary, and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle “strongly believe[s]” that the team will “get an offensive tackle and a cornerback in the first two rounds” of next year’s draft. McClain is as plugged in as any beat writer in the game, so he certainly has a feel for what the organization is thinking. The Texans have an extra second round pick thanks to the Duane Brown trade, so they’ll have plenty of ammo to acquire top talent.
  • The Texans have been without an offensive coordinator for a while, but that could change soon. Head coach Bill O’brien has been acting as his own offensive coordinator since he fired George Godsey, and McClain thinks their tight ends coach Tim Kelly will be their next offensive coordinator, saying that he’s “highly thought of” within the building.
  • The Saints will be without starting left tackle Terron Armstead for at least another week, according to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com (Twitter link). Armstead has now missed the last month of the season with a pectoral injury. Drew Brees‘ pass protection has fallen off without Armstead, and Brees has struggled a bit with the additional pressure in recent weeks.

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Saints’ Terron Armstead To Miss Time

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead is expected to miss three to four weeks with a pectoral injury, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Armstead suffered the injury in Sunday’s one-sided win over the Bengals. 

The Saints turned to veteran Jermon Bushrod after Armstead’s exit, so it stands to reason that he will start in Armstead’s absence. The Saints also have Michael Ola and tackle/guard Chaz Green to support Bushrod and Ryan Ramczyk, so they don’t necessarily have to add a tackle this week.

With an 8-1 record, the Saints are fighting more for playoff positioning than a postseason berth. They have a comfortable, though not insurmountable, lead over the 6-3 Panthers for the NFC South title and they are second only to the 9-1 Rams in the NFC. Clearly, they did not miss a beat after Armstead’s exit on Sunday, so this is unlikely to unravel the Saints’ passing offense in the coming weeks.

Armstead, 27, ranks as the league’s No. 1 overall tackle this year, according to Pro Football Focus.

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