The New Orleans Saints are miles over the salary cap limit for 2021 and a few cost-cutting exercises are a dead certainty during the offseason.
Experienced and important players like Jared Cook and Marcus Williams will most likely not be offered new deals this offseason. There is a likelihood that more than one of the key players on the New Orleans Saints roster could be put on the trade block.
General manager Micky Loomis has already been hard at work getting the Saints' finances in order since the season's end.
Franchise quarterback Drew Brees has reportedly agreed to take a massive pay cut, which could potentially see him retire ahead of the 2021 campaign. Brees' acceptance of the new deal, which will see him make the league veteran's minimum of $1.075 million, freed up $23.4 million in cap space. The New Orleans Saints then acted quickly and released guard Nick Easton which saved them a further $5.9 million in cap space.
NFL Trade Rumors: 3 Players that the New Orleans Saints could put on the trade block
These two moves took $29.8 million off the books, but the New Orleans Saints are still an estimated $72 million over budget, meaning chances are someone could be on the move.
Let's take a look at three players that the New Orleans Saints will likely put on the trade block.
1) Marshon Lattimore
The New Orleans Saints' secondary took a step back in 2021 as they were ranked 21st in the NFL in coverage by PFF.
A former first-round pick, Marshon Lattimore had quite a lot to do with this low ranking. It's not that he played terrible defense, on the contrary, Lattimore enjoyed a steady campaign overall. However, he was guilty of conceding too many penalties with nine of the Saints 45 that the Saints incurred being against Marshon Lattimore, which resulted in him earning a measly 53.7 coverage grade.
Lattimore did contribute nine combined pass breakups plus two interceptions in 2020, but then again he also gave up a league-high six TDs when in single coverage.
Does this mean Marshon Lattimore is on the decline? Probably not. He's still a tier-one NFL cornerback, in my opinion. But after a season of indiscipline on the field and with New Orleans needing to find approximately $11.5 million to pick up his fifth-year option, Lattimore is one of those players who could be set for an exit.
Potential landing spots for Marshon Lattimore: Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and Cleveland Browns all struggled in coverage last season. Marshon Lattimore has the skills required to upgrade all three teams.
2) Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas was arguably the NFL's best receiver in 2019, a season in which he amassed 1,725 yards, nine TDs, and broke the NFL record for most pass receptions in a season with 149. Thomas has been Drew Brees' go-to guy in each of his first four seasons in the NFL and his stats had been on an upward trajectory throughout, with 2019 being the pinnacle.
Unfortunately, an ankle ligament injury, a thigh injury, and a much-publicized training ground bust-up with teammate Chauncey Gardner-Johnson conspired to keep Thomas out of the Saints line-up for much of the season. And even when he did play, he didn't seem to be at full-strength. Of course, this all came to a head in the divisional round playoff against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where Thomas went 0/4 up against Carlton Davis, and the Saints made a dramatic exit from the playoffs.
Now on to the question at hand: if Michael Thomas is so good, why would the New Orleans Saints trade him?
In 2019, Michael Thomas signed a 5 year, $96m contract with the New Orleans Saints that included a $20m signing bonus, over $60 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $19,250,000. In 2021, Thomas is set to earn $12.5m, while carrying a cap hit of $19m and a dead cap value of $23m. That is money that the Saints don't have.
One would assume that Sean Payton tied down Thomas on that kind of money for a reason, so it's highly unlikely that the New Orleans Saints will put the receiver on the trade block. Ultimately though, it just depends on if anyone comes knocking the Saints' way with the right offer. A high first-round draft pick and a couple of assets could potentially be enough for the Saints to part ways with Thomas.
Potential landing spots for Michael Thomas: The Baltimore Ravens could do with a receiver like Michael Thomas to help Lamar Jackson in the passing game.
3) Ryan Ramczyk
Pro Bowler, Ryan Ramczyk signed a 4-year, $8.9 million contract with the New Orleans Saints in 2017. The deal also consisted of a $4.6 million signing bonus, $6.75 million guaranteed money, and an annual salary of approximately $2.2 million. However, in 2021, Ramczyk will earn $11 million with the New Orleans Saints.
It would be tragic for New Orleans to lose one of the NFL's premier right tackles. But, as with Thomas, it's just a question of if the Saints can afford to retain his services and what offers they receive for the three-time All-Pro.
Potential landing spots for Ryan Ramczyk: The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, and Los Angeles Chargers have the cap room, draft picks and the need to upgrade their respective offensive lines.