Of all the playoff teams from the previous season, the New Orleans Saints are undergoing the biggest changes. The Saints are losing their franchise quarterback Drew Brees to retirement. They are also losing key players on both sides of the ball due to a terrible salary cap situation. The team is under pressure to repeat as NFC South for the fifth year in a row. There is even more pressure on five key players for the Saints that are playing in contract year in 2021. These are players that will need to have a big 2021 season with New Orleans to be re-signed or have to have a big offer next season somewhere else.
New Orleans Saints Players Facing Make-or-Break Contract Years
Jameis Winston – Quarterback
One year learning from the future Hall of Famer in Brees, Winston looks to make a big impression with the New Orleans Saints Saints in 2021. Winston signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Saints with the full expectation to win the starting quarterback job. This season is the last chance to show that he can lead a team into playoff contention. There are positive signs that Winston has learned enough from Brees and head coach Sean Payton to lower his touchdown-to-interception ratio. Winston will be a leader for a team again for one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. If Winston can help the Saints win their fifth consecutive NFC South title, he will likely be given an extension by New Orleans. If Winston fails to show out, he won’t have another shot for another team like this.
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) June 28, 2021
Marshon Lattimore – Cornerback
The Saints defense improved dramatically several seasons ago. Most of the praise goes on the addition of the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback in Lattimore in 2017. Last season, the Saints defense ranked fifth in points allowed per game (21.1) and fifth in passing yards allowed per game (217). Lattimore has been one of the most dominant man coverage cornerbacks in the NFL for four seasons. He is entering into his final year of a fifth-year, $10.24 million option by the Saints this season. The Saints are not quick when extending the contracts of their star defensive players off their rookie contracts. Saints fans are concerned that the Saints will not be able to extend Lattimore between now and the end of the season due to the terrible salary cap space. Lattimore will play regardless of contract talks this season, but it will be tough to play through.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 13, 2019
Terron Armstead – Offensive Tackle
On Wednesday, the Saints decided to give right tackle Ryan Ramczyk a five-year, $96 million contract. This makes him the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL. A move like this puts even more pressure on starting left tackle Terron Armstead. He is entering into the final year of his five-year, $65 million deal with the Saints. Armstead has been one of the most consistent pass and run blockers for the Saints. For the past three seasons, Armstead has been selected to the Pro Bowl. Armstead will be 30-years old when the 2021 NFL season, making him the oldest starting offensive linemen for the Saints.
Terron Armstead has thrown 2020 out of the club pic.twitter.com/KqAMparNfn
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) January 1, 2021
Tre’Quan Smith – Wide Receiver
Smith enters into the final year of his rookie contract with the Saints with many questions. In the three years of his NFL career, Smith has a role as a starter for the Saints. He has played in 40 games while starting in 23 of them, including 16 in the last two seasons. His lack of productivity on the field is concerning as the Saints need a reliable deep-threat receiver. Smith will need to play like he will be one of the top receivers for the Saints. He will need to get open consistently and win matchups against his defensive back. This might be his last chance as a starting receiver in the NFL if Winston fails to be a part of a strong passing offense. He could find his way to a contract extension with the Saints if he has a Pro-Bowl type season.
Tre'Quan Smith with the toe tap in the end zone!
An early lead for the #Saints
— NFL (@NFL) November 9, 2020
Marcus Williams – Safety
Much like Lattimore, the Saints are not quick to give a massive contract extension to their defensive players. The Saints used their franchise tag on Williams for a $10.6 million deal. Williams has been a strong starting safety for New Orleans for the past four seasons. He has started in all 60 games he has played for the Saints. This past season, Pro Football Focus gave Williams an overall grade of 79.3. Despite some stellar seasons, Williams has never been to the Pro-Bowl. He has had a bad reputation of losing in big moments. Being paid $10 million is significant for Williams, especially with the team being in a bad salary cap situation. New Orleans can not afford to use a franchise tag again on Williams for the 2022 season. Williams looks to lock up a long-term contract with the Saints so he could potentially become one of the most vocal on defense.
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