The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to increase the league’s salary cap ceiling to $208.2 million in 2022, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cap dropped to $182.5 million for the 2021 season, over $15 million lower than 2020’s $198.2 million number.
Teams will have much more money at their disposal to sign free agents and extend current players. This includes the previously cap-strapped New Orleans Saints, who created $111 million in space this offseason. With the new money they have available, here are five players the Saints should look to extend.
Ryan Ramczyk - OT
Ramczyk is priority No. 1 for New Orleans. He’s been an All-Pro for three out of his first four NFL seasons, including First Team All-Pro after allowing zero sacks in 2019. Ramczyk has already emerged as one of the league’s best offensive linemen and landed at No. 23 in CBS Sports’ Top 100 NFL Players in 2020.
New Orleans exercised Ramczyk’s 2021 fifth-year option last March, guaranteeing a base salary of just over $11 million. Although Ramczyk would get big money in an extension, it’s likely not as much as he would command in 2022 should he hit free agency.
The Saints should make it their mission to lock up the 26-year-old to solidify their offensive line for years to come, regardless of who ends up behind center. It would also continue to help the run game as Ramczyk helped New Orleans finish sixth in rushing yards per game (141.6).
Marshon Lattimore - CB
The Saints also exercised the $10.2 million fifth-year option for Lattimore. New Orleans freed up $7.4 million by turning his option into a base salary of less than $1 million and converting the rest into a roster bonus with four voidable years worth $120 million.
Lattimore has recorded 10 interceptions, 55 pass deflections, 230 combined tackles, five forced fumbles and four recoveries throughout his four-year career. He’s been an integral part of a Saints secondary that ranked first in interceptions (18) and fifth in passing yards allowed per game (217.0) in 2020.
With New Orleans having a glaring need at cornerback, it’d be best not to make things worse by letting the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year and three-time Pro Bowler walk in free agency.
Marcus Williams - S
Williams has been one of the most underrated safeties in the league and part of the Saints’ home run draft class in 2017. He’s racked up 13 interceptions, 30 pass deflections and 246 total tackles in his first four seasons.
New Orleans signed Williams to his $10.612 million franchise tag as both sides work toward a long-term deal. New Orleans will likely have a deal in place before the July 15 deadline to sign players under tags.
The Saints should work out this deal as soon as possible to lock up the core pieces of the secondary to have as much money as possible before potentially signing or trading for a corner.
Terron Armstead - OT
New Orleans is in a tough spot with Armstead. While he’ll likely fetch top-of-the-market value from a contender, the Saints aren’t exactly in “win-now” mode. Armstead will be 30 this season and isn’t getting any younger.
New Orleans signed Armstead to a five-year, $64.5 million extension in 2016 and has been one of the best at his position when healthy. He’s made the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons and was named Second Team All-Pro in 2018.
After missing the last half of the 2018 season due to a pectoral injury, Armstead has missed just three games in the past two seasons. The expectation is that the Saints will at least extend Ramczyk, but locking up arguably the NFL’s best offensive tackle duo would be ideal.
David Onyemata - DT
New Orleans lost standout defensive end Trey Hendrickson to free agency after he signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. Sheldon Rankins also left and signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the New York Jets.
Onyemata has quietly become one of the league’s better interior defensive linemen. The former fourth-round pick has missed just two games in his first five seasons. Onyemata has recorded 167 total tackles, 21 for loss, 16 sacks and 42 quarterback hits.
With a depleted defensive line, locking up Onyemata is essential. He’s been a key part of a Saints unit that posted a league-best 85.8 rushing yards per game allowed from 2018-2019. The Saints signed him to a three-year, $27 million extension last offseason, but locking him up long-term would help paint a better picture of the defensive unit for the future and give the young defensive tackle a much-deserved raise.