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New Orleans Saints star Marshon Lattimore seeking contract extension before Week 1

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore knows he is an integral part of the team’s defense and with Week 1 closing in, he wants a new contract to reflect his value.

Lattimore, who is owed $10.2 million this season in the final year of his rookie contracts, remains the Saints’ best defensive back. Entering a season where there are even more questions at outside corner, New Orleans needs Lattimore to play with the same confidence that has made him a three-time Pro Bowl selection. One way to accomplish that, making him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Lattimore is pushing to get a contract extension signed before Week 1. While negotiations are ongoing, the Saints’ cornerback holds the leverage in discussions and is expected to land a new deal worth at least $18 million per season.

The Saints are in a tight cap situation, making a long-term deal a little more complicated. But the front office also knows it can’t afford to let Lattimore walk in free agency, giving him negotiating power. Of course, finding the right value has its own complications.

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Why the Saints should be cautious on Marshon Lattimore extension

Lattimore is one of the most recognized cornerbacks in the NFL, in part because of a breakout rookie season that saw him win Defensive Rookie of the Year and earn a Pro Bowl selection. But the No. 11 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft also has some issues that might cause the Saints to hesitate past a certain price point.

For one, Lattimore could be facing a suspension this season. He was arrested in March for possession of a loaded handgun, a weapon that was believed to be stolen. While he was released on $5,000 bond, the NFL may still suspend him for the fourth-degree felony.

It easily could be a singular mistake that Lattimore will learn from and one suspension shouldn’t greatly influence what a team is willing to pay a star player. But it does open the door for more significant discipline if another incident occurs, which would put the franchise in a difficult spot.

An even bigger concern, Lattimore’s inconsistent level of play. While he made the Pro Bowl this past season, the selection was largely due to his reputation.

Lattimore ranked 19th among starting cornerbacks in yards per reception allowed (13.9), per Pro Football Focus, and he received a 53.7 coverage grade this past season. While he played better in 2019, holding quarterbacks to an 85.8 passer rating when targeted, he hasn’t played at an elite level since 2017.

Entering the 2021 season, only two cornerbacks (Jalen Ramsey and Marlon Humphrey) average more than $18 million per season. If that’s the starting point for Lattimore, he’ll be the third highest-paid corner in the league.

Unfortunately for the Saints, there’s a risk in letting things play out. Applying the franchise tag next season would likely net Lattimore $17.8 million fully guaranteed.

It’s evident the Saints are interested in signing Lattimore to an extension, but they will run the risk of the deal backfiring on them in a few years.