The deadline for NFL franchise-tagged players to sign a contract extension with their current teams is Thursday at 4 pm EST.
Free safety Marcus Williams of the New Orleans Saints was one of ten NFL players to receive the franchise tag this year. It was only the third time that the Saints have used to tag on one of their players since 1993.
Only one of the ten players tagged, QB Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, has signed a contract extension.
If New Orleans and Williams cannot reach a new deal by Thursday afternoon, his 2021 salary will be approximately $10.6 million dollars and he could be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Williams is currently the tenth highest paid safety in the league, with Denver's Justin Simmons topping the list with an annual average of $15.25 million.
Spotrac.com has estimated that a contract extension for Marcus Williams would pay him an annual average of $13.5 million per season, putting him sixth on the current list of safeties.
The Saints recently signed elite OT Ryan Ramczyk to a record-breaking extension, but have several other players whose contracts will expire after the season.
Pro Bowl LT Terron Armstead is on the final year of his deal, as are quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, and shutdown CB Marshon Lattimore.
With the team's salary cap restrictions and several key players needing to be retained, several Saints fans are asking the question:
IS MARCUS WILLIAMS WORTH A BIG CONTRACT?
Williams was a second-round pick by the Saints in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Utah. He was voted to the NFL's All-Rookie team in 2017 when he intercepted 5 passes, broke up 10 others, and recorded 82 tackles.
Over his four years in the NFL, Williams has led his team in interceptions three times and picked off 14 passes. He’s broken up 33 throws, forced or recovered 3 fumbles, recorded a sack, and scored one defensive touchdown.
Williams has also been a durable player for the Saints. He’s started 67 games in the last four seasons, including playoffs, missing just four games with injury.
Williams has a slight build at 6’1” and 195-Lbs. and has struggled with his tackling at times. It’s an area he showed great improvement in 2020, both fundamentally and his angles to the ball carrier, getting credited for a career-low 3 missed tackles.
Along with fellow 2017 draftee Marshon Lattimore, Williams helped transform an abysmal secondary into a shutdown, ball-hawking unit.
The Saints ranked fifth in pass defense in 2020, holding opposing teams to under 60% completion percentage and leading the league with 18 interceptions.
Williams has as much range as any safety in the NFL. He’s an instinctive player who expertly baits opposing quarterbacks and has terrific closing speed to the throw. His 14 interceptions are the eighth most in the league over the last four years.
New Orleans released veteran CB Janoris Jenkins this offseason, leaving major question marks at cornerback. They used a third-round draft choice on Stanford CB Paulson Adebo and still have Lattimore, who could face a league suspension to start the year.
A safety with the range of Marcus Williams allows the Saints to be more aggressive with their coverage packages underneath.
His presence also eases the transition of breaking in inexperienced corners and can cover up for some coverage liabilities.
Marcus Williams has yet to earn a Pro Bowl bid, but he’s still highly respected in league circles and by his own team.
The only other players to receive a franchise tag in team history was QB Drew Brees and TE Jimmy Graham. In both instances, Saints would sign the players to a contract extension.
Putrid pass defense kept an explosive New Orleans out of the playoffs in 2014, 2015, and 2016. With young talent on both sides of the ball for more playoff runs, it's time for the Saints to extend Marcus Williams, then Marshon Lattimore, to keep an outstanding pass defense intact.
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