It’s safe to say the off-season is heating up, and the most frequent question surrounding the New Orleans Saints’ defense is how they will go about the safety position. Marcus Williams has cemented himself as a top safety in the league and now that the Saints decided not to franchise tag him, he’s free game to the market.
New Orleans has been adamant about wanting to bring Williams back on a long-term deal, but not much else has been spoken on the situation. It’s basically a given that Williams will be offered more lucrative offers from other teams, so that leaves a couple questions... Will the front office offer a suitable contract to keep Williams and will it even matter? If money is on the top of Williams’ priority list, his time in New Orleans may be done.
Seattle Seahawks’ safety Jamal Adams set the market for safeties with his deal in 2021, receiving 17.5M a year. Rumors circulate that Williams may want in that same ballpark, but we won't know until we get the news.
Another situation to keep an eye on is the reported mutual interest between the Saints and Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is from New Orleans and has remained active in the community, making it all seem more sensible. Some fans look at this as great news, while some believe it implies that Williams is all but gone. Mathieu played most of his snaps in the slot or box, far different from Williams’ role. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams lined up at free safety for 922 of his 1,037 snaps. In comparison, Mathieu lined up at FS only 308 times in 2021. If this change were to happen, change in the Saints’ secondary (scheme) would be pretty evident.
Williams plays with range that compares to Ed Reed, so losing him would be damaging to this defense regardless of who replaces him, as his production was pretty much irreplaceable. With that being said, Mathieu is still a top safety in the NFL and bringing him in would more than soften the blow of losing Williams, keeping the defense elite. Let’s see how Mickey Loomis can work it all out.