This offseason, the New Orleans Saints are focused on getting closer to the estimated cap number by restructuring deals and identifying cap casualties. Using the franchise tag was reportedly not something the Saints were expected to utilize this week, but they surprised the very noisy NFL world by doing just that on Tuesday afternoon. The Saints announced they are placing the franchise tag on safety Marcus Williams.
The free safety is coming off of an impressive 2020 campaign, in which he recorded 59 combined tackles, seven passes defensed and three interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams registered a 78.6 PFF Grade in 2020, which ranked sixth among safeties. In 60 career regular-season games with the Saints, Williams has recorded 13 interceptions and has been a consistent presence in the secondary. Williams was originally drafted by New Orleans out of Utah in the second-round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Williams is projected to make $11.196 million under the tag in 2021. The Saints have a couple of important free agents such as pass-rusher Trey Hendrickson they could have franchise tagged, but tagging him would have cost more money. As previously mentioned, the Saints have some serious work to do on the financial side of things this offseason. According to Over the Cap, the Saints are sitting around $58.7 million on the wrong side of the cap, which is by far the worst mark in the NFL. All other 31 teams will be paying attention to how New Orleans works to escape this unprecedented situation.
"Man, I don't know what they do after this," one cap manager told CBS NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. "This is about as bad as anything I have seen. They are really all-in with no wiggle room."
Another cap manager said: "I mean this is a case where you might want to keep restructuring and pushing (cap charges) back because you have a good roster, but now that the cap is flat, or worse, the next few years, that can really end up just compounding the problems. They have a lot of work to do in 2021."
The Saints can still sign Williams to a new deal, but placing the franchise tag on him shows that they want him around long-term.