New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams was given the franchise tag this offseason to prevent him from hitting the open market. It was just the third time the team has ever used the franchise tag on a player.
Williams, a second round draft choice by the Saints in 2017, brought a ball-hawking element to the secondary they had lacked since their Super Bowl championship season of 2009. He has 13 career interceptions and 30 passes broken up over his four years.
Even though Williams is under contract this year because of the franchise tag, he has not yet signed a long-term deal and could be a free agent after the season. Fello safety Malcolm Jenkins will turn 34 this season and appeared to have lost a step in coverage last year.
New Orleans has a budding star in third-year defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, but he’s most effective when moving around the defensive formation. Retaining Williams slightly diminished an immediate need at safety. Don't be surprised if the Saints still use a draft pick to fortify the position.
Keep an eye on today's draft spotlight, who could be available with a late second day selection.
ANDRE CISCO, SAFETY (SYRACUSE)
Cisco played at the famed IMG Academy in his last two years of high school after attending St. Anthony's near Long Island, NY. He elected to come back to his home state when signing on at Syracuse. As a true freshman, he earned 3rd team All-American and 1st team All-ACC honors by leading the FBS with 7 interceptions and being among the country's leaders with 18 passes broken up.
Despite missing three games with injuries in 2019, Cisco led the Orange with 5 interceptions and 10 passes broken up, also recovering one fumble, forcing another, and recording 65 tackles. Cisco suffered a knee injury just two games into 2020 that ended his season. The injury also limited him at the Syracuse Pro Day last month. He finished his collegiate career with 13 interceptions and 19 passes broken up in just 24 games played.
Cisco's injury will push him down the draft board, but he is on schedule for a full recovery by training camp. A little light for action close to the line of scrimmage or man coverage against tight ends and may need to add bulk.
Cisco's tackling and ability to cut off a play are major concerns. He frequently takes poor angles in pursuit, which can be catastrophic when he’s the last line of defense. Once engaging as a tackler, he isn't fundamentally sound, leading to an alarming amount of broken tackles.
His aggressiveness has gotten him into trouble, often beaten by getting caught with eyes in the backfield too long. He must also improve his route recognition and hone his instincts when having man coverage responsibilities.
Cisco has excellent range as a deep safety and the necessary recovery speed. He has a wideout's mentality when the ball is in the air and is in constant attack-mode to make a play. Cisco shows outstanding explosion out of his plant and terrific feel in deep support.
As a tackler, Cisco packs a punch when he delivers a hit, especially over the middle. He plays bigger than his size and has the frame to add bulk without sacrificing agility. He has the leaping ability to win jump balls along the sideline and consistently makes quarterbacks pay for testing him.
Andre Cisco is a natural playmaker in the secondary. He can be a feast-or-famine player because of his aggressive style and needs to improve his tackling. His immediate ideal fit will be in a two-high safety scheme, which New Orleans employed often in the second half of 2020. He has the upside of a gamebreaking starter capable of creating constant turnovers.