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Marcus Williams signs franchise tag, long-term deal still possible

Marcus Williams signs surprise franchise tag with New Orleans Saints as long-term deal remains in the works

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

This piece has been updated below.

In a somewhat surprising move, the New Orleans Saints will reportedly be placing the franchise tag on safety Marcus Williams. The franchise tag for his position this season will be around $10.5 million, not a bad price for a player of Williams’ talent and contributions.

Williams was easily one of the biggest highlights on the Saints defense in 2020 and helped solidify one of the better secondaries in the league. Williams started 14 games in 2020 and recorded three interceptions. Despite defensive end Trey Hendrickson tying for the league-leading amount of sacks with 13.5, Williams was always expected to be the main defensive target in terms of re-signings.

However, it was expected that New Orleans would try to work out a long term deal with Williams vice going the franchise tag route. The tagging does not mean the Saints won’t try to work out a deal, in fact, it likely highlights the opposite. With the franchise tag placed on Williams, it will give the Saints more time to try and lock up the star safety and prevents him from hitting free agency.

Williams was expected to have numerous suitors throughout the league for his talents. And while the franchise tag means a bit more work on the cap space front for the Saints front office, it does preclude Williams from testing the waters and potentially exiting New Orleans this season.

As our own Kevin Skiver points out, the Saints have only used the franchise tag twice, once on quarterback Drew Brees and the other on tight end Jimmy Graham. Both of those deals have led to long-term deals. This Williams news only further highlights how the franchise views Williams and what he brings to the table.

New Orleans has had an offseason plan all along. Williams has always been a part of those. He will likely once again suit up for the Black and Gold come 2021.

Updated Saturday, March 20 - 12:40 PM

According the NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, New Orleans Saints star safety Marcus Williams has accepted his franchise tag. The Saints and Williams are also reportedly still working on a long-term deal to keep him in the Big Easy for the foreseeable future.

Across the NFL, all franchise tags have been accepted or long-term deals are being signed. Williams and fellow NFL safety Marcus Maye both taken their $10.6M tags this weekend. Meanwhile, Broncos safety Justin Simmons looks to be in line for a four-year, $61M deal ($15.25M per year) in Denver. That deal makes SImmons the highest-paid NFL safety for now.

As the Saints and their 2017 second-round selection work on their deal, getting it done quickly will behoove them. Maye and the New York Jets as well as Anthony Harris of the Minnesota Vikings look to also be in line for big money. If the Saints fall behind too much in their negotiations, the price may end up being dictated by a swelling market.

Williams has totaled 13 interceptions and 30 passes defended in his career so far. In 2020 he was targeted only once every 37.3 snaps, the second best among safeties who played more than 500 coverage snaps according to Pro Football Focus. A hot topic issue for Williams has been his tacking, but that concern was alleviated quite a bit last year as he posted only a 4.8% missed tackle percentage. Down from 14.1% in 2019.

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