To keep players from the free-agent market until they can reach a deal, teams franchise tag players. However, the Saints can’t even afford to do that.
The Saints’ franchise tag is a key concept in the NFL in which they can retain a player for a certain amount so that they can keep them from entering the free agency market and receiving a contract from another team before they could agree on one.
As a Saints fan, I wish that you could tag a player and keep them at the same contract price that they were in the previous year. If that was the case, New Orleans would have used their tag on Jameis Winston, Marshon Lattimore, Sheldon Rankins, or Trey Hendrickson.
With franchise tagging though, each player is guaranteed a certain amount upon placing the tag on them. Albert Breer lists the NFL’s franchise tag salary amounts for the 2020 season below. We can guess that they will be at least similar in 2021.
Looking at the number, if the Saints were to franchise tag, they would owe Winston $26.8 million, Lattimore $16.3 million, Rankins $16.1 million, and Hendrickson $17.78 million. All of those the Saints can not currently afford.
The Saints have only used the franchise tag twice in the team’s history. They used it once in 2012 to retain Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees, and they used it once in 2014 to retain tight end Jimmy Graham. In both instances, they signed them to future long-term contracts.
They need to figure out how to get down under the salary cap rather than worry about signing other players. Even though the franchise tag was a great idea, it is still going to be too expensive for the Saints to try and pursue.
No matter how you look at it or whatever loophole you think you found, New Orleans will not be able to retain any of its unrestricted free agents. With the salary cap the way it is, they cannot even afford the current players under contract.