You can point to some moments in the New Orleans Saints’ recent history as important milestones or turning-points — one of them being the team’s historic 2017 draft class, which started with a pair of future Pro Bowlers. The Saints owned two picks in the first round that year and spent them on two instant starters in cornerback Marshon Lattimore and offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk.
But both players’ futures with the team are in doubt. Time and injuries and drama behind the scenes have prompted speculation that neither of them could be long for New Orleans. And when Saints general manager Mickey Loomis spoke to reporters on Wednesday in his end-of-year press conference, he was short on details, but offered vastly-different messages on each of them.
Let’s start with Ramczyk. He’s missed 13 games over the last three years with a persistent knee injury, including the last three matchups in 2023. Ramczyk has been dealing with a degenerative cartilage condition and said earlier this year that career-ending surgery is an option in the offseason, and while Loomis didn’t go into details, he did share a more-uplifting perspective on the right tackle’s outlook.
“I have a positive feeling about where he’s going to end up,” Loomis said. “And I think he does as well.”
That sure suggests Ramczyk will be back in 2024, even if Loomis didn’t spell it out clearly. But what about Lattimore?
Lattimore has missed a full 17-game season’s worth of matchups over the last two years, but the injuries were unrelated. This year he got rolled up on by a teammate while helping finish a tackle, and missed the final seven games with a slow-to-heal high ankle sprain (which typically sideline NFL players for six to eight weeks). The year before, Lattimore suffered internal organ injuries in a freak accident when he collided with other players while rallying to the ball. Both times he got hurt while cleaning up someone else’s mistake.
Rumors have swirled about discord between Lattimore and Saints head coach Dennis Allen leading to a possible trade. And the Saints made that more likely by restructuring Lattimore’s contract for 2024 to center on an option bonus, not a signing bonus, which his new team would be responsible for paying.
But when asked about that decision, Loomis kept his hands close to his vest, saying the restructure was about cap management. On the unique option bonus maneuver, he responded: “There’s a reason but I’m not going to get into it.”
That’s not exactly telling the world that Lattimore is available and the Saints are open for business, but it’s awful close. Trading one of the best defenders in pro football wouldn’t make a lot of fans happy, and the optics of giving Lattimore the boot while keeping a head coach with a career-losing record would be awful. But that appears to be a path Loomis is willing to tread even if it’s expensive and unpopular.
So while we’re reading the tea leaves here, Loomis’ comments suggest that Ramczyk will be back in 2024, but Lattimore may not be, if the team can find a trade partner. Or at least the team is prepared for life without their star cornerback. Or maybe we’re reading his words all wrong. Either way, it’s shaping up for another eventful Saints offseason. Hopefully a successful season and return to the playoffs is waiting on the other side of it.