The New Orleans Saints will have some tough decisions looming ahead, none more so than which players to extend. Here are our top five.
Despite talk and rumors of the New Orleans Saints possibly trading for their next franchise quarterback, let’s assume they do not. For this practice, the Saints will not trade for Deshaun Watson or Matthew Stafford, and instead will roll the dice with signing Jameis Winston to a team-friendly deal. This would conceivably give New Orleans a little more cap space to work with, especially after the restructuring of contracts and extensions.
Additionally, the players listed below are still under contract with the team and are not set to be unrestricted free agents.
Here are five players the Saints should extend this offseason:
Ryan Ramczyk, Tackle
Ramczyk is arguably the most talented and important part of the Saints offensive line. Part of the vaunted 2017 draft class, Ramczyk has gone on to become a first-team All-Pro once and a second-team All-Pro twice in just his four years of play. At just 26-years old, Ramczyk would become one of the hottest names on the free agent market come 2022, and without extending him now, he would likely be out of the Saints price range come a year from now.
The Wisconsin product offers stability at the right tackle position for New Orleans, and if he can be extended would mean the difference in having a good offensive line and a great one for years to come. For months we have talked about how the Saints need to extend Ramczk, and now is the time to act. By extending him now you can offer him a larger signing bonus and then backload the contract in order to help alleviate the cap hit come 2022. With fans still not expected in stadiums at full capacity in 2021, the lesser cap hit in 2022 would be helpful in remaining competitive, while also ensuring one of the best tackles in the league remains in New Orleans.
Terron Armstead, Tackle
Well, we just covered right tackle, so why not take a crack at the left tackle now? Armstead has been a stalwart for the team and when healthy is one of the best options at the position. Unlike Ramczyk, Armstead’s contract is more complex than a simple rookie deal with a fifth-year option picked up and subsequent extension. Armstead’s contract has a dead cap hit in 2022 and 2023, and much like Ramczyk, Armstead is set for unrestricted free agency in 2022.
Armstead is 29-years-old, but by “extending” him through 2023 or further you can kick some of the dead cap space hit down the road through voidable years while also helping solidify the left side of the offensive line. Again, right now the focus should be on remaining competitive until the NFL salary cap comes back up to a normal or even higher level in 2023. Kicking Armstead’s dead cap hit down the road while also locking him up seems like a logical choice.
Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback
Another product of the 2017 NFL Draft class, Lattimore has established himself as a top-notch cornerback in the league. Much of his criticism comes from his work ethic which ultimately translates into consistency. This season was his “prove it” year and at first it looked like he was going to fall flat on his face. However, he ultimately figured it out and had a great second half of the season and became a part of one of the best secondary units the Saints have seen.
Much like the two players above him, Lattimore is set to hit free agency in 2022 and will have a cap hit in 2021 of about $10 million. Again, I understand the criticisms of Lattimore, but he will get paid by some team because cornerbacks like him are hard to find in the NFL. Unless New Orleans wants to go back to having one of the worst secondary’s in the league, then they will find a way to get creative and sign Lattimore to an extension. Much of it could be in the form of a signing bonus and his cap hit in 2021, if worked correctly, could actually save the Saints money
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback
Are we seeing a trend here? It is important to lock down both sides of the field offensively and defensively. Adding Jenkins to the roster in 2019 after he was released from the New York Giants was an easy decision. Since his arrival in New Orleans, Jackrabbit has solidified the CB2 position and his level of play has been consistent with that of a CB1. The Saints signed him already to a two-year extension that would see him become a free agent in his age 35 season. However, the cap hit in 2020 was only about $4 million, but in 2021 that goes up to over $14 million.
Signing Jenkins to another “extension” and kicking the can down the road one more year will once again help free up cap space for 2021 and 2022 through another voidable year or two. At his age not many will likely want to give him much of a shot in terms of guaranteed money on 2023. Therefore, that is when the piper will wants his due.
David Onyemata, Defensive Tackle
There will likely be fluctuation along the defensive line in the next few years for the Saints. Sheldon Rankins could be gone, and even Cam Jordan may have an expiration date. Additionally, Trey Hendrickson after a phenomenal deal may find an offer he can’t refuse outside of New Orleans. As such, the Saints need to prioritize signing David “The Manitoba Mauler” Onyemata to an extension. He recently signed a three-year deal heading into the 2020 season, but like most of the Saints contracts they had a smaller cap hit in 2020 and a larger one later on, including 2021.
Thanks to COVID-19, some reevaluating has been needed and a new extension to push Onyemata’s voidable year down the road while also lessening the, wait for it, 2021 and 2022 cap hit would be the best thing to do. It would also help provide at least some semblance of stability along a line that may get decimated in the next few years due to phenomenal play or retirements.
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