The NFL’s July 15 deadline for extending franchise-tagged players has come and gone, but the New Orleans Saints were unable to strike a deal with standout safety Marcus Williams.
Williams signed his $10.612 million franchise tag in March, which he will play on for the upcoming season. New Orleans must now wait until the 2021 season has concluded to reopen contract negotiations.
This is the first time in the Sean Payton era that the Saints have failed to sign a franchise-tagged player prior to the deadline.
Williams has recorded 13 interceptions, 30 pass deflections and 246 total tackles in his first four career seasons in the league. His strongest season came in 2020 when he posted career-bests in completions allowed, receiving yards allowed, yards per target, passer rating allowed and missed tackle percentage.
It remains to be seen how Williams builds upon his 2020 campaign and how it affects his value. He could very well post another strong season and be offered a multi-year deal from New Orleans that he would happily agree to. On the flip side, he could regress this season or suffer a sudden injury and end up having to settle in contract talks.
The Saints could also look to reunite with free agent linebacker Kwon Alexander. New Orleans traded Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round draft pick to San Francisco last season for Alexander.
Alexander recorded 27 total tackles, one forced fumble and two recoveries in seven games with the Saints before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in December. He’s since been cleared to resume football drills and is exploring the market.
New Orleans hosted Alexander for a free agent visit on Tuesday with reported interest from both sides. He is also said to have interest from other teams, but a reunion is well within the realm of possibility.
Another player the Saints could acquire is Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard. Howard, who was named First-Team All Pro thanks to a league-leading 10 interceptions in 2020, is reportedly unhappy with his contract.
Howard was not present at Miami’s mandatory minicamp. Rumors have already started to swirl, some of which New Orleans is seemingly on board with. While the Dolphins have not made Howard available in trade talks, this is a situation the Saints should monitor closely.