METAIRIE, La. (AP) New Orleans Saints left tackle Terron Armstead has agreed to a five-year extension that runs through the 2021 season.
Armstead, who was a third-round draft pick by the Saints out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2013, has been a starter since late in his rookie season. His contract had been due to expire after the 2016 season.
''Terron is a valuable and important piece to our offense and has shown that he is one of the top players in the game today,'' Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said when the team announced the extension Tuesday afternoon. ''He will be a valuable member of our team for many years to come.''
The 6-foot-5, 304-pound Armstead, who'll turn 25 in July, started 13 games last season despite a nagging knee injury that sidelined him from numerous practices.
''There isn't a left tackle I would trade him for in the league,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said late last December. ''I really like the way he has progressed. He is smart and athletic, and last week when you watch the tape, if you watch it, you can see that he is not 100 percent and he fights through it.''
Saints quarterback Drew Brees offered similar praise near the end of last season, saying, ''I know what he has had to battle through from week-to-week. ... Yet, he's still done an outstanding job. It has been impressive.''
When drafted, Armstead was known for his 4.71 40-yard-dash time at the NFL combine, which demonstrated exceptional speed for his size.
The Saints hoped Armstead's athleticism would fit their blocking scheme, and they now believe they were right. New Orleans has continued to be among the league leaders in total offense with Armstead playing a key role on the line during most of the past two seasons.
''I'm extremely grateful and blessed for this opportunity,'' Armstead said after agreeing to his new deal. ''I would not be as fortunate as I am today if it were not for the faith and support of my family, teammates, coaches and the fans of the New Orleans Saints.''
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