Step Three: Trade Cornerback Marshon Lattimore
In the historic 2017 draft in which they drafted Williams, the Saints got it all started by drafting cornerback Marshon Lattimore with the 11th overall pick.
Immediately, he became one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, he rated as the 8th-best cornerback in all of football, and the future looked extremely promising for him in terms of ascending into the top player at his position.
However, since then, Lattimore has regressed in every season. In 2018, he allowed a 98.4 passer rating, a 64.4% completion rate, and 880 total yards, a notable amount.
In 2020, his passer rating allowed (94.5) was quite similar, while he didn’t rank as a top-40 cornerback in completion rate allowed, yards allowed, yards per reception allowed, yards per target allowed, and target separation, according to Player Profiler.
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Am I suggesting that Lattimore is a poor player? Not by any means. He is quite strong in man coverage, can shadow No. 1 receivers, and also is extremely strong when it comes to limiting yardage after the catch.
Yet, unlike Williams, he hasn’t been able to overcome the natural volatility that comes with being a coverage player.
It is so difficult to know what you’re getting from most defensive backs in a given year, and for that reason, it is generally a good idea to not pay a singular player an extensive amount of money, unless they have proven to be a consistent performer.
By all accounts, Lattimore is seeking a similar deal to Jalen Ramsey, who signed for five years and $100 million. Paying any non-quarterback $20 million, particularly a defensive player, is quite risky and makes it much more difficult to build a deep roster.
With Williams being a more consistent player, and a more valuable one, he should be the priority, and at that point, having two players making so much money in the secondary is a tricky proposition.
Given his reputation, there should be a lot of interest in Lattimore. The Jaguars, Browns, and Jets have picks at the end of the first round and could have an interest. What about swapping first-round picks with a cornerback-needy team such as the Broncos or Cowboys picking in the top ten?
Could the Patriots or Cardinals have interest with mid-first-round picks? What about the Dolphins?
This is something New Orleans would have to explore. Not only would they be saving $10 million in cap space, but they’d also be stockpiling picks, and without much young talent on the roster, the importance of that could not be overstated.