How do you move on from a nine-year starter? That’s what the New Orleans Saints have spent much of the last year asking themselves, knowing that standout left tackle Terron Armstead was headed for free agency and unlikely to finish his career with them. Repeat Pro Bowlers like him often don’t last long on the open market, and that rang true when the Miami Dolphins made Armstead an offer he couldn’t refuse — totaling $43.37 million in guarantees on a five-year contract.
This is something the Saints have known was coming. They’ve been preparing for it for a full year, having signed Armstead’s backup James Hurst to an incentive-laden contract that rewards him for locking down a starting job. They also inked right tackle Ryan Ramczyk to a deal with its own incentives should he earn All-Pro recognition in moving to left tackle. And they also picked former Kentucky Wildcats left tackle Landon Young in the 2021 NFL draft, giving them another option to add to the mix. It’s been reported as early as Sept. 2021 that the team planned to let Armstead test the waters in free agency rather than discuss an early extension.
None of that should preclude the Saints from exploring other options, though. There are other veteran left tackles available in free agency like Duane Brown (formerly of the Seattle Seahawks) and Eric Fisher (ex-Indianapolis Colts starter). New Orleans could also look to the 2022 NFL draft for help. If a top prospect like Charlie Cross (Mississippi State) or Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa) is available in the first round, and that is an admittedly big “if,” the Saints could more easily transition. That would come at the cost of adding a high-end receiver or quarterback prospect, though. Maybe they go looking for someone like Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann or Penn State’s Rasheed Walker on the second day of the draft.
Still, even knowing the Saints have built in contingency plans, and knowing they have other options available in free agency and the draft, it hurts to move on from Armstead. He’s been one of their greatest success stories of the last decade, having been drafted and developed from a small school (Arkansas at Pine Bluff) to go on and earn three Pro Bowl nods. Armstead has been a foundational piece of the locker room who Sean Payton took time to praise in his final press conference as head coach. Losing Armstead now, even if it was the plan all along, is a real turning-the-page moment in Saints history. Let’s see how they adapt.