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New Orleans Saints 2016 draft class ready to cash in

Though we are just entering the halfway point, many key contributors from the 2016 draft class contracts will expire at the end of the season.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints are in the midst of another title run and are 7-1 as they head into the second half of the season. For the third year in a row the team sits atop of the NFC South at the midpoint, looking to make it three years in a row winning their division.

A contributing factor for this run has been the 2016 draft class which added many key contributors on both sides of the ball. Now four years later many of these players are due for a payday with expiring contracts and will be looking to cash in.

Vonn Bell

Bell has been having his best year in the NFL so far and of course its during his contract year. Playing just under 100% of the snaps on defense, Bell has become a leader of the young secondary.

He currently has 52 combined tackles (tied for first on the team with Demario Davis), coupled with a pair of quarterback hits and tackles for a loss. Bell has yet to record an interception in his career, but this season alone he has forced two fumbles and recovered four—taking one back to the endzone.

Taking a look at recent contracts of safeties in Bell’s age range (24) can give a hint at what Bell may be seeking this offseason. On the higher end of recent contracts is the three-time Pro Bowler Landon Collins (25) who signed a 6-year $84,000,000 contract with an annual salary of $14,000,000 per year. Bell, who has improved each year since being drafted, isn’t a pro bowler though.

Adrian Amos of the Green Bay Packers is a better example to look at as a ceiling for Bell in my opinion. Cutting his teeth under Vic Fangio in Chicago, Amos signed a four-year deal this offseason with Green Bay for $37,000,000 or $9,000,000 per year.

Bell is one of many on the defense who are up for contracts, including two other secondary members.

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Eli Apple

The first-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2016 did not have his fifth-year option picked up by the team this offseason. While not the same lockdown player Marshon Lattimore is, Apple has been consistent enough to help this secondary prevent the explosive pass plays that have hampered them for so long.

The Saints invested a fourth and a seventh round draft pick to acquire the Ohio State product, who has steadily improved his play since arriving. His time in New York ended in a publicized manner where he and many of his teammates did not get along. Joining a locker room full of former college teammates and a better culture seems to be an attractive lure for any player, so a “hometown” discount is always possible.

David Onyemata

Since making it to the NFL the raw, inexperienced defensive tackle out of the University of Manitoba in Canada has become a force to be reckoned in the trenches. Blessed with strength and athleticism, Jeff Ireland and the Saints scouting staff saw something in the Nigerian native and have developed that ever since.

Onyemata has contributed to a top-10 run defense for two years in a row while adding 10 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in his four year career. He and Sheldon Rankins have been a solid one-two punch at the “3-tech” defensive tackle spot, with the former seamlessly filling in for Rankins as he recovered from his Achilles injury suffered last season.

The team currently boasts a wealth of depth on the defensive line, which could make it hard to resign Onyemata. Rankins will be looking for an extension in a year, if not sooner and other contracts could make Onyemata the odd man out.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Andrus Peat

Not technically part of the 2016 class, Peat—selected 13th overall in 2015— had his fifth-year option picked up by the team last offseason, meaning his rookie contract expires this year. From being highly praised by Mike Mayock during the combine to the weak link on an elite offensive line, Peat never quite lived up to his first round status coming out of Stanford.

While he hasn’t been the perineal Pro-Bowler many expected him to be, he has started at the left guard spot since halfway through his rookie year, as well as filling in for Terron Armstead at the left tackle position multiple times.

Similar to Onyemata’s case, Peat will have to prove that he is an intricate part of the offensive line in order to be resigned. With so many teams losing in the trenches, Peat may be one of the more coveted free agent lineman on the market this offseason. This could raise his price above what the team is willing to pay him.

If so, this coaching staff has had a penchant for developing linemen that the team has drafted, so one can expect offensive lineman to be a position of need heading into this year’s draft.

These players still have eight games to continue proving their value to this team as well as showcase their talents for the other 31 teams in the NFL. So while the team continues their march to Miami and won’t have to deal with these contracts for a few months, it’s always good to keep an eye towards the future.

Some other notable players with an expiring contract include quarterbacks Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill, wide receivers Austin Carr and Keith Kirkwood, cornerback P.J. Williams, and fullback Zach Line.