Why Re-signing Demario Davis Should Take Priority Over Alvin Kamara for the Saints
The New Orleans Saints have several enormous contract decisions to make over the next two years. Pro Bowl CB Marshon Lattimore and All-Pro offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk had their fifth-year contract options picked up by the team, but are still scheduled to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2021 season unless extended. At the end of this coming season, New Orleans must deal with expiring contracts of key players like TE Jared Cook, DT Sheldon Rankins, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Kiko Alonso, FS Marcus Williams, DB P.J. Williams, RB Alvin Kamara, LB Demario Davis, along with finding a new quarterback after the expected retirement of Drew Brees.
The team's front office has done a masterful job at juggling the financials of the salary cap to keep one of the NFL's best teams intact, but keeping all of those players and the contracts they will command will be difficult. Most expect the Saints to make the biggest push to re-sign Kamara, who is perhaps the league's most versatile back and likely to pull in an average of close to $15 million dollars per year with his next deal. Kamara has rare abilities and has been a vital part of the Saints offensive success since joining them as a 3rd round pick in 2017. Re-signing a player with elite talents as his should be a priority, but the thought here is that the next top contract priority for New Orleans should be on the other side of the ball.
Demario Davis joined the Saints as a free agent in the offseason of 2018, signing a three-year contract after an underrated 6-year career with the New York Jets. Davis had an instant impact with New Orleans in 2018, leading the team in tackles (110, including 11 for loss) while forcing 2 fumbles, recovering a fumble, breaking up 4 passes, and recording a career high 5 sacks. He was even better last season on his way to his first All-Pro honor, notching a team-high 111 tackles (11 for loss), an interception, 4 sacks, and a career best 12 passes defended. Davis allowed only 1 touchdown pass in man coverage last season, was credited with 15 QB pressures, and had among the fewest missed tackles in the league.
The 31-year-old Davis can play any of the linebacker positions, is a devastating blitzer, athletic enough to cover the league's best tight ends, is an elite run defender, and is one of the NFL's best sideline-to-sideline defensive players. When injuries sidelined three of the teams linebackers in 2019, it was Davis’ play that kept the unit playing at a top level. He has also assumed an important leadership role on not only the defense but the entire team and along with DE Cam Jordan and Lattimore is arguably the defense’s most invaluable player. His intensity and ability has transformed the New Orleans defense into one of the league's better units.
Davis will earn a salary of approximately $7.6 million dollars in 2020 and Spotrac projects that the market value for his next contract will be around $12.5 million per season. While there is no denying Alvin Kamara's ability and value to the Saints, an impact defensive player is a rare commodity. Davis is a playmaker against both the run and the pass, and has helped make the Saints defense into a unit that can win football games by themselves instead of having to rely on solely their offense like so often earlier in the decade. For those reasons, re-signing Demario Davis over any other pending free agent should be the top priority for the New Orleans Saints.