The New Orleans Saints needed salary cap space to, at minimum, sign their 2021 draft class, and Marshon Lattimore obliged, agreeing to a restructure that freed up upwards of $7 million in cap space for 2021.
What does this mean for Lattimore’s contract status? Why would Lattimore agree to a restructure if an extension wasn’t on the horizon? Why would the Saints do it?
For the Saints, the motivation is clear: The team needed cap space to sign their draft class (and maybe make another move or two this offseason?), and their roster didn’t allow for any fat to be trimmed in the form of a release. It would mean an extension or restructure was the only route to go, and with every one restructure candidate having already restructured, it only left the potential extension candidates (Lattimore, Marcus Williams, and Ryan Ramczyk) as options for a restructure or extension.
Why would Lattimore agree to a restructure? Doesn’t he hold all of the leverage to hold out for an extension, knowing that the Saints have to free up the cap space somehow? Well, sort of.
Lattimore’s recent legal troubles are well-documented, and this recent restructure helps provide a bit more financial security in the event things turn sour with the NFL:
This frees up much-needed wiggle room for Saints under the cap -- allowing them to sign their rookies and a veteran or two.— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) June 8, 2021
Lattimore could've played hardball while holding out for a long-term extension. But if he is suspended for any games this year, it will now cost him less. https://t.co/CABK0wxf1J
That means Lattimore agreeing to a restructure wasn’t just out of the kindness of Marshon’s heart. It obviously created a benefit for the Saints, but it gives Lattimore a bit of security in the event of a suspension for his recent arrest. While Lattimore knew the Saints needed to free up the cap space to sign their draft class, he also knew the Saints could turn to a player like Ryan Ramczyk and ask Ramczyk to restructure instead. This way, both sides make out a little better in 2021.
But what does this say, if anything, about Lattimore’s contract status for 2022? The most obvious thought is the Saints might know an extension with Lattimore is coming eventually before doing this restructure. If the Saints are having to carry Lattimore’s money on the books in 2022 and beyond after the restructure, I’m sure the team would rather he be playing for the Saints at the same time.
However, the Saints have shown a willingness to restructure a player’s contract in the final year of his rookie deal but then let that player walk in free agency. Last season, the Saints restructured the contract of Sheldon Rankins to free up approximately $4 million in 2020 salary cap space, and Rankins will be playing for the New York Jets in 2021 despite Rankins costing the Saints $2 million in 2021.
That being said, the Lattimore restructure only tells us one thing about Lattimore’s future: the two sides - Lattimore’s camp and the Saints front office - are able to talk. The two sides recognized a need and an obvious benefit that could be obtained for both sides, and worked out a deal that everyone was happy with. Whether the Saints and Lattimore are able to do the same thing regarding a long-term contract extension has yet to be determined, and the restructure of his contract means next to nothing as it relates to Lattimore’s future.