Headed into 2021 NFL free agency, the New Orleans Saints prioritized retaining FS Marcus Williams applying the franchise tag on the four-year veteran. The move makes it unlikely that the team will pursue another starting safety during free agency.
Williams, one of the premier young safeties in the league, has recorded 13 career interceptions and 1 defensive touchdown in 60 career regular-season games. The Utah product has also appeared in 7 playoff games, recording one takeaway. With the franchise tag applied, Williams will play on a one-year deal worth roughly $10.5M in 2021.
A look at the New Orleans Saints at the safety position.
Current Saints Safeties Under Contract for 2021
- Marcus Williams, 24 (Signed Franchise Tender
- Malcolm Jenkins, 33
- C.J. Gardner-Johnson, 23
- J.T. Gray, 25
Saints Safeties That Are Free Agents in 2021
- D.J. Swearinger, 36
- Justin Hardee Sr., 27 (Agreed to Terms With NYJ)
New Orleans will undoubtedly miss Special Teams Ace, Justin Hardee Sr., who recently signed a three-year deal with the New York Jets. Hardee served as a pivotal part of the Saints Special Teams unit that ranked atop the punt return average league. During his tenure in New Orleans, the WR turned DB recorded 47 tackles in 56 games.
Mickey Loomis will also have a hole to fill in-depth and veteran leadership with the potential of DB D.J. Swearinger finding a new home this offseason. The NFL veteran joined New Orleans late in the 2019 season and logged 15 total regular-season appearances for the Saints, providing depth and versatility in the defensive backfield.
Despite the potential loss of both players, the team does not have a significant hole to plug at safety headed into the start of free agency. The Saints could, however, look to replace either reserve with one of the free agents below.
Available Safeties in Free Agency
- Tre Boston, 29, CAR
- Kenny Vaccaro, 30, TEN
- Chris Banjo, 31, ARI
Replacing special teams ace Justin Hardee Sr. could be a daunting task for New Orleans this offseason. But the team could look towards former Saint Chris Banjo (2016-18) to reprise his role as a key special teams player for the Saints in 2021. Banjo spent the last two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, collecting career highs in both tackles and starts last season.
When it comes to filling in the hole that long-time NFL veteran D.J Swearinger leaves, the Saints could look to pluck former Panthers' safety Tre Boston off the market. Boston started all 16 games for the Saints NFC South foe in each of the last two seasons, collecting 4 INTs.
Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen could also re-connect with a previous first-round draft selection of the New Orleans Saints, Kenny Vaccaro (2013-2017). The Tennessee Titans recently released the former Texas Longhorn after back-to-back 80+ tackle seasons. Vaccaro spent two full seasons under Allen in New Orleans and could return to the Bayou as a reserve "box" safety in 2021.
Free Agency opened at 3 PM CT on March 17, thus allowing teams who have already reached verbal agreements to make the moves official. New Orleans will not be in the market for a big named addition to this off-season's defensive backfield. However, bringing in a depth piece or special teams ace could be in the works over the coming days.
Will Who Dat Nation see a reunion or two with a former Saints DB? Only time will tell.
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