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Report: Former KC Chiefs LB Willie Gay Jr. Agrees to Terms With New Orleans Saints

After four years in Kansas City, Willie Gay Jr. is reportedly heading to the NFC South to join the Saints.

Less than 24 hours before the official start of 2024 NFL free agency, the Kansas City Chiefs are set to lose a longtime member of Steve Spagnuolo's defense. 

According to a Tuesday evening report from Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, linebacker Willie Gay Jr. has agreed to terms with the New Orleans Saints. The contract is a one-year deal worth a maximum value of $5 million. Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reports a $3M guarantee at signing for Gay.

By joining the Saints, Gay will reunite with former teammates like Tyrann Mathieu and Khalen Saunders on defense. This shouldn't necessarily come as a major surprise to anyone, as Gay tweeted from a new X account in January that he was "probably" playing his final home playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. The tweet sent a shockwave through Chiefs circles, although it's a reality that many players are faced with as their contracts expire. 

In the aftermath of Gay's post, I wrote about his potential future with the Chiefs on Arrowhead Report

The real takeaway from the tweet, however, pertains to Gay's long-term future with the franchise. Currently wrapping up the final year of his rookie contract, he's set to hit the free agent market in the spring. The tone of his post hints at an expectation that he won't return for the 2024-25 campaign. Spotrac currently values him at a market value of four years and just over $28 million, an average annual mark of $7M. Even if that isn't his actual market, perhaps the team doesn't have significant interest in retaining him. 

Gay, a second-round pick back in 2020, just wrapped up the final campaign of his rookie contract. In four years with the Chiefs, he played in 57 games during the regular season and amassed 233 tackles (17 for loss), 19 passes broken up, five sacks, four fumble recoveries and four interceptions. This past season, he recovered three of those four fumbles and logged 58 tackles in 16 games (15 starts). Combining regular season and playoff numbers, he played over 2,000 snaps on defense since entering the league.

Without Gay, the Chiefs still boast a formidable linebacker trio. Nick Bolton and the newly re-signed Drue Tranquill lead the way, and 2022 third-round pick Leo Chenal came along nicely in year No. 2 on the job. Given Tranquill's contract, there simply wasn't a massive need for Gay to necessarily come back to Kansas City. Now, he'll move on to The Big Easy and look to make good on his soon-to-be-finalized deal with the Saints.