Marcus Williams Free Agency Profile: Potential landing spots, contract situation, stats, and more

Safety Marcus Williams should strike a rich contract in free agency after putting together another strong season for the New Orleans Saints.

Safety Marcus Williams played for the New Orleans Saints on the franchise tag in 2021. He almost certainly will not in 2022. The Saints are in cap hell and should be looking to unload during the 2022 free agency periodnot take on another big contract for a luxury. Let’s see where Williams fits into the Saints’ roster-building equation — how big of a contract might he command based on his stats and ability?

Marcus Williams: Free Agency Overview

Williams, if tagged again, would earn in the neighborhood of $13 million in 2022. The Saints are a league-worst $76.2 million over the cap with no quarterback. There’s never been a better time to detonate their roster and start over, particularly with the quarterback-rich 2023 NFL Draft class.

If the Saints let Williams walk (which seems quite likely), they would almost assuredly net a third-round compensatory pick next year, which would help what should be a full-fledged rebuild under new coach Dennis Allen.

Update (March 5): ESPN reports that Williams does not expect to receive the franchise tag, but the Saints are hopeful that a long-term deal can get done.

Recapping Williams’ 2021 season

Williams started 16 games in 2021, with 74 tackles, 8 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble. He spent a lot of time covering the deep middle. His defensive average depth of target was a staggering 17 yards.

It’s not surprising, then, that he gave up some yards (401 on 43 targets) and a few touchdowns. But throwing on Williams wasn’t a particularly efficient way for opposing quarterbacks to do business. They completed just 48.8% of passes thrown his way for an 85.5 rating.

Williams’ contract estimate and salary cap implications

Safety is an undervalued position in the NFL. Only running backs, tight ends, and specialists have a lower projected franchise tag figure in 2022. Consequently, there’s a hard cap on Williams’ earning potential. The Saints have gotten great value in his first five years, with his career earnings less than $17 million. And that includes last year’s franchise tag obligation.

We mentioned the Saints’ totally ridiculous salary cap situation. Someone needs to explain to us a scenario in which they can get under the NFL’s mandatory cap threshold and keep Williams, whose market value according to Spotrac is $15 million annually.

Possible landing spots for Williams

Williams’ biggest roadblock to a massive payday? Of the teams with the most cap space, only the New York Jets ($44.7 million) have a clear need at safety (assuming the Bengals tag Jessie Bates III, which seems likely). The Washington Commanders ($30.3 million) also make a ton of sense.

If the Detroit Lions are indeed serious about ramping up on defense, Williams should be on their list. Dan Campbell knows Williams’ ability well from their time together. The question is, can they afford him? Detroit has just $21.1 million in cap space, and based on their rebuild trajectory, they might be a year off from this kind of splash signing.

Other teams with needs at safety include the Eagles, Texans, and Chiefs.

What they’re saying about Williams

“Marcus Williams might be the purest form of a free safety left in the NFL. This man played half his snaps on Mars in Dennis Allen’s defense. He’d have his toes at 16 yards pre-snap and be at 25 within a half-second. But there’s enough diversity in the Saints’ defense to get at least a general feel for how he’d operate in a more versatile role.” — PFN NFL Analyst Dalton Miller, who ranked Williams seventh among all 2022 NFL free agents

Adam Beasley is the NFL Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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