Saints lose Marcus Williams, suffer huge defensive loss in free agency

Kristen Wong
Marcus Williams #43 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Marcus Williams #43 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
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The New Orleans Saints have lost their first major free agent of the offseason after safety Marcus Williams signed with the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday.

Williams agreed to terms with the Ravens on a five-year deal worth $70 million, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. That averages to $14 million a year, and sources believe the Saints were never going to go above $12 million.

The odds of Williams re-signing with the Saints weren’t high to begin with, but the Saints were reportedly on the shortlist of Williams’ preferred destinations in 2022. Losing Williams deals a nasty blow to New Orleans’ defense and forces the team to address the secondary this offseason — Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu serves as the most obvious free agent target for NOLA, but the Saints will likely make a decision based on best value, rather than overall talent.

New Orleans Saints lose star safety Marcus Williams in free agency

While Williams ultimately deserved to get his due, the Saints are now in a tricky situation with little safety depth on the roster. In 2021, New Orleans boasted a Super Bowl-caliber, top-10 defense partly due to Williams’ outstanding pass coverage. The fifth-year safety recorded 74 combined tackles, eight passes defended, and two picks in 16 games, and along with Marshon Lattimore and C.J. Gardner Johnson he served as the defensive crux keeping the Saints’ D elite all season.

With Williams out of the picture, the Saints could pursue Chiefs’ Mathieu, who has already been linked to the team this offseason.

Mathieu doesn’t offer long-term cornerstone potential like Williams, but he still possesses the talent and experience to dominate in the backfield. Kansas City was reportedly willing to let Mathieu walk in free agency, and given a player of Mathieu’s caliber, many teams including the New York Jets may be extremely interested in signing the star safety.

The Saints haven’t made any big moves so far and could be biding their time for the best bang-for-their-buck signing.

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If they’re serious about finding Williams’ replacement in free agency, though, they will have to act fast.

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