Players selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft are now eligible to have their fifth-year options picked up for the 2024 season, with teams having until May 2 to decide whether to exercise that pickup. For the New Orleans Saints, they need to choose whether to retain right guard Cesar Ruiz.
Ruiz is coming off the best year of his career, though his season ended in Week 15 with a Lisfranc injury. He’s told ESPN’s Katherine Terrell that he’ll be on a scooter through February and then spend some time in a walking boot, but he’s on track to be ready for training camp. He’s already under contract for 2023. The question is whether the Saints should pick up his fifth-year option for 2024.
How much would that cost them? The NFL’s recent collective bargaining agreement worked out how these fifth-year options are valued, now basing them off of factors like snaps played and Pro Bowl recognition; Over The Cap’s CBA experts did a good job of explaining it. For the Saints, they’re facing a fully-guaranteed salary cap hit of $14.75 million for Ruiz in 2024 if they choose to exercise his option.
And picking it up is a no-brainer. Ruiz is trending in the right direction and he’ll only be turning 24 this summer. He really benefited from his first full offseason with the team, and with his new position coach Doug Marrone (plus some help in training camp from legendary Saints right guard Jahri Evans, who interned with New Orleans). The Saints should absolutely pick up that option for 2024 and get Ruiz under contract.
That $14.75 million is a lot of money, but it can be restructured later on down the line to maintain salary cap flexibility. What’s most important is holding onto Ruiz as a young player on the rise. They have a complicated salary cap situation to manage in the years ahead, so making factors like Ruiz a challenge to resolve on another day is crucial. Hopefully he can continue to improve and earn a long-term contract extension.