Report: Saints to let Terron Armstead test free agency in 2022

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Well that’s disconcerting. We’ve known the New Orleans Saints had been preparing for the possibility of life without Terron Armstead, but now we’ve got news that it could be more likely than not. Losing their All-Pro left tackle would be very difficult to recover from.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Saturday that the Saints are effectively finished negotiating big-money contract extensions this season after signing star cornerback Marshon Lattimore to a five-year deal, months after right tackle Ryan Ramczyk was also extended. Here’s what Fowler wrote:

“I’m hearing he is set to play out the final year of his deal and hit the open market in March. Armstead is still a premier left tackle at age 30, and he can’t be franchise tagged because a recent contract restructure includes voidable years. So unless the Saints come up with a massive offer commensurate with top tackles in his age and price range, they’ll need to find a new edge protector next season.”

Fowler has been on top of Saints news this summer — he was first to report Lattimore’s interest in a new contract before the season started, and he reported several insightful contract details in New Orleans’ new deal with backup tackle James Hurst. While Hurst has been a great backup for the Saints, his contract increases in value if he wins a starting job.

That’s also true of Ramczyk if he earns All-Pro recognition at left tackle. Take those two factors together and it sure looks like the Saints are prepared to let Armstead go while sliding Ramczyk to the left side and giving Hurst an opportunity to start at right tackle (the same position promising rookie Landon Young has been training at). The salary cap crunch is expected to continue until 2023, when new media contracts send the cap sky-high. Good players like Armstead are going to get squeezed out.

Maybe Armstead considers a hometown discount, but it’s in his best interest to look for a big payday. He’s 30 and not likely to get another significant contract after this. If he can land something comparable to the $23 million per-year that top tackles Trent Williams, David Bakhtiari, and Laremy Tunsil are getting, he owes it to himself to pursue it. And that’s a number that stretches the limits of the Saints’ creative accounting. They’re right to prepare for his departure.

But Fowler’s reporting reflects how the Saints feel in September. It’s very possible they feel differently next March after self-scouting and getting a better idea of what the 2023 salary cap looks like. In-season extensions are rare for New Orleans, but let’s hope they find a way to keep both sides happy.

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