Despite the best efforts of GM Micky Loomis and head coach Sean Payton, the New Orleans Saints are still miles over the salary cap limit for 2021. Cost-cutting exercises have been underway throughout the offseason: Kwon Alexander, Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook are just three of the big names already to have left the Bayou.
Players like Sanders and Cook are off the books, and even franchise QB Drew Brees is currently just taking a veteran's salary of a little over $1 million. However, New Orleans is still so over cap that there is a likelihood that more than one of the key players on the Saints' roster could be put on the trade block over the course of the next two seasons. But which players are most likely to face an exit from the big easy if the above proves to be the case?
NFL Trade Rumors: 3 Players the New Orleans Saints could trade within the next two years
1) Marshon Lattimore, cornerback
Ranked 21st in the NFL, the Saints' pass coverage unit continued to be an issue during the 2020 season. Former first-round pick Marshon Lattimore certainly played his part in the low ranking. Lattimore wasn't awful; he played well in several games; nine combined pass breakups and two interceptions didn't make for terrible reading. Lattimore was guilty of conceding too many penalties, though: nine of the 45 penalties called against the Saints were down to Lattimore, which resulted in him earning a lowly 53.7 coverage grade.
Lattimore is still a tier-one NFL cornerback. But after a season of indiscipline on the field, and with Saints required to find approximately $11.5 million to pick up his fifth-year option during the 2022 offseason, Lattimore is one of those players who the Saints could opt to trade either this year or next.
Potential landing spots for Marshon Lattimore: The Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars all had their respective struggles in coverage last year. Marshon Lattimore at CB would be an upgrade for any of those teams.
2) Michael Thomas, wide receiver
Michael Thomas was quite possibly the best receiver in the NFL in 2019, a season in which he tallied 1,725 yards and nine TDs and broke the record for most pass receptions in a single season (149). Thomas has been Drew Brees' go-to guy in each of his first four seasons in the NFL and, up until last year, his stats have been getting better with each year spent in New Orleans.
Unfortunately, Thomas suffered an ankle ligament injury at the start of last campaign; then there was a thigh injury, followed by a training ground fracas with teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson. These events kept Thomas out of the Saints line-up for much of the season.
Even when he did play, he didn't seem to be at full strength, something ever more evident than in the Saints' divisional-round playoff defeat at the hands of NFC South rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Thomas didn't hold on to a single one of his four targets and was marked out of the game by Carlton Davis.
In 2019, Michael Thomas penned a 5 year, $96m contract with the Saints. The deal included a $20m signing bonus, $60 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of over $19 million. Thomas is set to earn $12.5m in 2021 while carrying a cap hit of $19m and a dead cap value of $23m. Put simply, the Saints might not find themselves with enough cap room to hold on to their side of this deal.
Fans can only hope that the Saints sign Thomas for that kind of money to build future rosters around his talents. Ultimately though, with Drew Brees likely set to retire and the Saints heading for a bit of an organizational reshuffle both economically and on the field, a high first-round draft pick and a decent second- or third-round pick could be enough to pry Thomas out of the Bayou.
Potential landing spots for Michael Thomas: There aren't many teams who wouldn't improve by adding a fit Michael Thomas to the roster. For my money, the Saints number 13 would be a great fit for a Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City offense that's looking to add some fresh talent to its receiving corps.
3) Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle
Saints OT Ryan Ramczyk penned a 4-year, $9 million contracts with the New Orleans Saints in 2017. The deal contained a $4.6 million signing bonus, $6.75 million guaranteed money, and an annual salary of just over $2 million. In 2021, Ramczyk will earn $11 million with the New Orleans Saints.
The last thing the Saints want to do is lose one of the NFL's premier right tackles. But, as with Mike.T, it might just be that the Saints can't afford to retain the services of the three-time All-Pro.
Potential landing spots for Ryan Ramczyk: The New York Jets and Los Angeles Chargers are just two of the many teams that need to make serious upgrades to their respective OLs during the offseason.