Saints keep safety Williams by using franchise tag

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints have placed the franchise tag on free safety Marcus Williams, general manager Mickey Loomis announced on Tuesday.

The decision prevents the 24-year-old Williams from entering free agency and effectively places him under a one-year contract for about $10.5 million.

Williams was a second-round draft choice out of Utah in 2017, who has started since the beginning of his rookie year and has intercepted 13 passes during his first four NFL seasons.

Last season, Williams intercepted three passes to go with seven passes defensed.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Williams also has rebounded to have three largely productive seasons since his missed tackle attempt on Stefon Diggs allowed the then-Minesota receiver to scamper for a winning, 61-yard touchdown as time expired in a divisional-round playoff game in January 2018.

This past offseason, Williams said he was determined to improve his tackling after coaches told him that was a weakness in his game.

In 2020, he ranked fifth on the Saints with 59 solo or assisted tackles.

Retaining Williams gives the Saints a measure of continuity in the defensive backfield, with fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Marshon Lattimore also still under contract.

But the move also will complicate the Saints’ efforts to stay under the NFL salary cap, likely precipitating more cost-cutting across the roster.

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