We've been tackling a list of Saints questions we posed at the beginning of June that we want to see answered over the next few months. New Orleans has already got their new voice in Mike Hoss, and we tackled who should start at quarterback along with breakout and under the radar players. For today, we look at the guys that are in line to get a contract extension, and weight out a few things related to their situation.
Ramczyk made it clear earlier this month in saying that he wasn't going to hold out and will report to training camp. The fifth-year option tag for the stellar right tackle comes to just over $11 million. He's certainly played at an elite level on the offensive line, and should easily be considered one of the top guys at his position around the league.
One thing that could pose a challenge that was looked at by Bob Rose previously is if the Saints would be able to afford both Ramczyk and Terron Armstead in 2022. The salary cap is expected to rise next year after taking a dip due to COVID-19, and we know that Khai Harley has been a true magician at navigating the cap for New Orleans. Regardless of the team's quarterback situation, keeping a staple like Ramczyk would go a long way, especially when you have someone like Alvin Kamara in the backfield.
Williams was kept under the franchise tag, which he accepted in mid-March, and the Saints have until July 15 to get a multiyear contract or extension in place. If this deadline passes, then New Orleans will have to wait until after the last regular season game. Williams has come a long way in his career, and has seemed to really improve his game. He's positioned himself well to cash in on a very big contract, but it might not come until later.
There were a few bumps in the road at the beginning of last season, but the encouraging thing was that Williams and the secondary got it all together. He was the one player the Saints couldn't afford to lose to free agency, although losing Janoris Jenkins later did hurt and came as a surprise. Williams has consistently graded out as one of the top safeties in the league for the past two seasons on Pro Football Focus, finishing 7th out of 94 at his position last season. 2018 was a bit of a down year following a stellar rookie campaign, but Williams still had a respectable grade.
Prior to the Lattimore contract tweaking, these three players accounted for $32 million of the salary cap. In early June, the Saints converted $10.2 million of Lattimore's fifth-year option into a roster bonus with voidable years. This lowered his base salary down to just $990,000. Like Ramczyk, Lattimore declined to talk about a future contract when asked earlier this month. However, the hope is that the two reach a deal.
Lattimore certainly feels strong about his game, and most things regarding the start of his season are a bit cloudy due to the off-the-field arrest in late March. The verdict is out on whether or not he will face league discipline under the NFL's personal conduct policy, and it's not uncommon for it to come out later (see David Onyemata in 2019). This is a big year for Lattimore, and the bargaining chips are in his favor with the team's current cornerback situation. Having a big season could go a long way for Lattimore's future payday.
Having to choose one player is not ideal, and there should be some strong confidence that New Orleans can get these three back to a long-term deal. There's some finagling on future contracts for 2022, mainly because Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan, Andrus Peat, Terron Armstead, and Alvin Kamara represent $90.53 million of next year's salary cap with the current structured deals. For now, Ryan Ramczyk feels like the most likely candidate to get extended. Of course, that's assuming that someone does get extended before training camp or before the season starts in Ramczyk and Lattimore's case.