For the past four seasons, the New Orleans Saints have had the NFL's best tandem of offensive tackles. Left tackle Terron Armstead and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk have bullied run defenders and made even elite pass rushers disappear when playing New Orleans.
Armstead and Ramczyk bookend one of the league's best offensive lines and help the Saints dominate opponents in the trenches. However, both tackles are entering the last year of their contracts.
Armstead came to the Saints as a 3rd Round choice in the 2013 NFL Draft from the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. He appeared in just six games as a rookie, but earned the starting job at left tackle early in the 2014 season.
When healthy, Armstead has been a fixture at left tackle for the last seven years. He’s earned Pro Bowl accolades in each of the last three seasons and was flagged for only one holding penalty in 2020.
Armstead, who turns 30 at the start of training camp, is widely regarded as one of the league's top-three left tackles. He’s a devastating run blocker who also dominates defenders as a pass protector.
The only criticism of Armstead has been his durability. He has never played a full 16-game season, although he's missed just three of the team’s last 35 contests.
Armstead will count $8.3 million against the team's salary cap in 2020. According to Spotrac.com, Armstead's next contract is projected to be approximately $23.9 million annually.
Ramczyk arrived to New Orleans with the Number 32 pick in the first-round of the 2017 NFL Draft from the University of Wisconsin.
Ramczyk made an immediate impact, starting every game as a rookie and earning a spot on the 2017 NFL All-Rookie squad.
He has been a rock of consistency for the New Orleans front line, starting 70 of the team’s 71 games including playoffs. Ramczyk earned 1st team All-Pro honors in 2019 and is a consensus choice among the league's top offensive linemen.
Like Armstead, the 27-year-old Ramczyk is highly skilled as a run blocker and pass protector. Most of the Saints rushing success comes over his right side, and he is viewed as one of the NFL's most devastating pass blockers.
New Orleans picked up Ramczyk's fifth-year option on his rookie deal. He will count nearly $11.1 million against the salary cap this season. Spotrac.com has Ramczyk's projected 2022 market value to be at nearly $16 million annually.
New Orleans has several key players who could be free agents after this season. Besides their two tackles, CB Marshon Lattimore, S Marcus Williams, and QB Jameis Winston could all hit the free agent market.
The success of the Saints offense has revolved around the dominance of their offensive line. New Orleans will make a strong push to re-sign both of their star tackles, with negotiations to extend Ramczyk already started.
The NFL salary cap for the 2022 season is projected to be $208.2 million per franchise, an increase of almost $26 million over the 2021 salary cap.
New Orleans is likely to be tight against the cap once again, even with the increase. They also have possible extensions for Lattimore, Williams, and paying a quarterback also looming. What if the Saints can only re-sign one of their elite offensive tackles?
The likely scenario would be that they push hard to get a new deal with Ryan Ramczyk first. Ramczyk is over three years younger, has shown far greater durability, and even showed the capability to play left tackle in college.
New Orleans spent a sixth-round draft pick on University of Kentucky lineman Landon Young last month. Young is projected to be a right tackle in the NFL, and the Saints have had success at finding solid offensive linemen late in the draft.
The Saints also re-signed 29-year-old offensive lineman James Hurst this offseason. Hurst is now under contract through 2024. He can play either inside or outside and has starting experience at tackle early in his career with the Baltimore Ravens.
Either option is a downgrade in talent from what the Saints have with Armstead and Ramczyk, and even a high draft pick in 2022 on a tackle provides a risk of the unknown.
Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead have been a huge key to the New Orleans offense over the last four seasons. Re-signing at least one beyond this season is a top priority, with retaining both being the ideal scenario for continued offensive success.
Follow Bob Rose on Facebook or on Twitter @bobbyr2613.
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