Around The Trade Block: Saints CB Marshon Lattimore

June is normally a quiet part of the NFL calendar. Offseason training activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp are wrapped up by the end of the second week, and then the whole NFL adjourns for one final break before launching into training camp at the end of July. 

Marshon Lattimore

There was an exception a few years ago, however. The Falcons, mired in serious cap troubles during the 2021 offseason, decided it was time to move on from WR Julio Jones. But because Atlanta had just signed Jones to a massive new deal relatively recently, the Falcons couldn’t afford to eat his entire dead money hit in 2021. They had to wait until after June 1 to trade him, as any cuts or trades after June 1 leave teams with only the dead money from that year with the rest deferred to the following season. 

The end result was an auction for Jones, with the Titans winning the bid with a second and a fourth-round pick. It was the liveliest June the NFL has seen in a while. It’s within the realm of possibility that we see something similar again this June, this time with a different NFC South team and player — Saints CB Marshon Lattimore.

He’s not quite as big a star as Jones but Lattimore is still far and away better than the caliber of player usually available in June. At his best, Lattimore is a true No. 1 corner, which is a rare commodity for teams to find and has been even rarer this offseason. The Saints have been publicly trying to downplay this situation all offseason but there are plenty of reasons why a Lattimore trade remains 100 percent on the table.  


Why Trade Lattimore? 

The short answer is it’s a complicated situation, with a variety of reasons on and off the field for why both sides might prefer a fresh start. There also remains a possibility that Lattimore ends up back for an eighth season in New Orleans. 

The long answer involves taking a step back to look more broadly at the Saints’ salary cap. There are fans, analysts and team personnel who would object to calling their current situation “cap hell.” However, there’s no denying that New Orleans has been walking a tightrope with its cap management for a while. For the past several years, the team has annually had to restructure contracts for most of its key players to get under the cap and have breathing room to operate. In each of the last three offseasons, the Saints have had to create over $100 million in cap space to get back in the black and conduct offseason business. 


When a team restructures a player, it lowers their salary to the minimum and converts the rest into a signing bonus which is spread out equally over the remaining years of the contract as dead money. Teams can add void years — essentially fake years — to maximize the signing bonus proration, and the Saints have leaned heavily on this technique. When a player reaches the end of his time with a team, whether it’s by being cut, traded, retiring or his contract expiring, all the dead money left on the remaining years of the contract (real or fake) accelerates to the current year. 

The Saints love restructures because one of their central salary cap principles is that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow due to how the league salary cap has historically grown. But the downside of restructures is that they can limit a team’s flexibility with players by increasing the dead money associated with them. For the past two years, restructures have been the only way for the Saints to get under the cap. Cutting players and eating all of the dead money they’ve pushed out into future years has not been an option.

The Saints have one more year where they will have to rely on restructures before the league’s growing salary cap should lift them out of the hole in time for the 2026 offseason. Until then, they’ll have to continue to be creative with how they massage their cap, and the situation with Lattimore is a good example. 


Right before the deadline to restructure contracts last year, the Saints restructured Lattimore’s contract, taking most of his 2024 salary and converting it into a bonus. However, instead of a signing bonus the Saints used an option bonus. The money is still prorated over the remainder of the contract and treated like a signing bonus for cap purposes, but the option is not due until one week before the 2024 regular season begins. 

That means the Saints have not paid Lattimore that money. If they trade him before the option is due, his new team would pick it up and that money would come off the Saints’ books. There is no other reason to structure the contract that way unless the Saints — and Lattimore — were interested in pursuing a trade. Teams include automatic restructure rights in most contracts, but this was not a normal restructure, so Lattimore’s camp had to sign off on not getting $13.79 million until a later date. 

Trading Lattimore this year would free up a huge chunk of cap space for the Saints in 2025 and be a key part of their financial strategy as they dig out of what is currently a $70 million deficit. If they trade him before June 1, it would result in over $31 million in dead money hitting the books right away. That’s about $16.6 million more than his current $14.6 million cap hit, meaning the Saints would lose that much in available cap space. Considering they have less than $6 million available right now, that would be difficult to manage. 


On the flip side, trading Lattimore after June 1 would mean just $10.6 million in dead money this year and $20.6 million in 2025. It would save $4 million in cap space this year and more than $10 million next year. The only downside is that the market might not be as robust with teams having spent a whole offseason trying to fill needs. 

Trading Lattimore would not just be about shedding salary, however. Injuries have limited him to just 17 games over the past two seasons, including a lacerated kidney in 2022 and an ankle injury in 2023. There have been tensions behind the scenes too.

Longtime Saints beat reporter Jeff Duncan wrote in January that the Saints were frustrated with how Lattimore handled his injury rehab and his locker room presence. He discussed how the team viewed Lattimore as a potential trade asset and specifically mentioned a second-round pick as potential compensation, which we’ll circle back around to. 


Duncan also had more reporting around the same time about how the Saints’ locker room splintered during the struggles of the 2024 season as the Saints failed to meet expectations yet again under HC Dennis Allen. Lattimore has been tabbed as one of the players who has chafed under Allen’s leadership, and you can connect the dots there about why Lattimore might be open to leaving. 

Publicly, the Saints have mostly avoided the topic or downplayed their desire to trade Lattimore. Saints GM Mickey Loomis dodged the question in his draft availabilities and admitted he was doing as much. Allen said at OTAs this week that he expected Lattimore to be on the team in 2024, while Duncan wrote another column about how the two sides are prepared to move forward together for now.  


However, watch what teams do, not what they say. In this case: 

  • The Saints restructured Lattimore’s contract in a way that only makes sense if they’re looking to trade him. If we knew nothing else, this alone would be the smoking gun revealing their intentions. 
  • You can debate the semantics about whether the Saints “shopped” Lattimore in trade talks. At a minimum, there were conversations with other teams about a potential deal in March and April. 
  • New Orleans traded up in the second round to draft CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, giving the Saints four starting-caliber corners along with Lattimore, Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor. Everyone but Lattimore is on a rookie contract but it’s worth noting Adebo is entering the last year of his deal. 

Those actions ought to drown out any of the tepid words from people within the organization. Anything that comes out of Loomis or Allen’s mouth should be viewed from the lens of trying to maximize Lattimore’s trade value and re-establish leverage in negotiations. Had they found their desired asking price in March or April — remember that mention of a second-round pick? — Lattimore would be gone by now. 


What Is Lattimore’s Trade Value? 

Earlier this month, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote an article mapping out potential offseason moves after the draft. He projected the Saints trading Lattimore to the Jaguars in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Saints fans and some analysts panned that as too low of a return, but it might be closer to his actual value than you’d think. 

For most of his career, Lattimore has been one of the top cornerbacks in football. He started his career off with a bang, winning defensive rookie of the year and earning Pro Bowl selections in four of his first five seasons. In that span, he picked off 13 passes, forced five fumbles and knocked down 74 passes. 

Lattimore has been a true No. 1 corner capable of holding up each week against the best receiver on the opposing team. He might not be a true shutdown corner, but those players are rare anyway. Since entering the league, he’s consistently been in the conversation for the top three to five players at the position.


But injuries have sapped his production over the past two years. He’ll be entering the 2024 season as a 28-year-old cornerback who hasn’t been at the top of his position in some time. Even if Lattimore still has quality years left, teams get more and more skittish about defensive backs the closer they get to 30. It doesn’t help that Lattimore’s not necessarily cheap. 

A new team would inherit three years and just a scooch over $50 million remaining on Lattimore’s contract. The good news is only the first year is guaranteed, consisting of a $1.21 million base salary and the $13.79 million option bonus. After 2024, there’s an out. An acquiring team would also have options for how to handle that bonus baked into the contract. They can pay it all up front or exercise the option and spread it out over the remainder of the deal. 

If Lattimore is the player he was from 2017-2021, or close to it, he’s worth $15 million plus draft compensation. But his age, recent injury history and contract are major weights on his trade value.


What will help the Saints is the limited supply of quality cornerbacks available for teams this offseason, one that didn’t end up matching the demand. No. 1 cornerbacks are still valued commodities in the NFL, especially for contending teams. 

What will hurt the Saints is the leaguewide trend that seems to be devaluing the position. Teams just don’t seem to be valuing or investing in cornerbacks the same way they used to. In the last decade, the salary cap has grown by 92 percent while the top of the cornerback market has only grown by 61 percent, per Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap. That’s lower than any position outside of running back or special teams. 

You’re seeing this play out in the trade market as well. This offseason there were a few notable cornerback trades, with the Lions acquiring CB Carlton Davis from the Buccaneers and the Titans getting CB L’Jarius Sneed from the Chiefs in a tag-and-trade situation. Both went for essentially third-round picks, with Detroit and Tennessee kicking in a little sweetener on their ends. 


You can go back to last season and the price is similar. The Rams got only a third-round pick and TE Hunter Long for CB Jalen Ramsey to ship him to the Dolphins. Rasul Douglas got a third-round pick for the Packers from the Bills, and he’d probably rank at the bottom of this quartet. But deadline deals have different incentives, and the Packers had to kick in a fifth-rounder. 

Figuring out why the NFL seems to be taking more of a cost-conscientious approach at cornerback could be a whole separate article. My quick hypothesis would be that it’s partially due to teams shifting more resources in general to the offensive side of the ball, and partially due to cornerback being a hard position to have consistent, year-over-year success. Pass coverage is as valuable as it’s ever been, but if teams can’t predict which players will be productive in that department, they won’t invest as confidently and aggressively. 

All of that said, it seems like a second-round pick for Lattimore would be a hard sell for the Saints. A third-round pick seems to be the going rate, even for a player of Lattimore’s caliber. 


The calendar is not necessarily in the Saints’ favor as well. The trade logistics are much easier if New Orleans waits to deal Lattimore until after June 1. But at this point, teams have already made their Plan A for the 2024 season. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a market for Lattimore but it does mean there might not be as much urgency. Teams with a need at cornerback will wait to see if someone already on the roster can seize a role, or if there’s a cheaper way to address the position. 

The Saints can wait to see if an injury changes the math for a team and creates some urgency if their phones don’t blow up in June. They have plenty of time, as Lattimore’s bonus isn’t due until early September. If Lattimore is traded, it feels likely at this point that New Orleans would take a third-round pick. If the two sides just want to wrap this up and not drag them into the season or beyond, I could see the Saints settling for a fourth. 


Who could be interested in Lattimore?

So far we’ve established:

  • The Saints are definitely interested in trading Lattimore, more than likely sometime after June 1, to shed money and give both sides a fresh start. 
  • A third-round pick would be a good return if another team offers. 
  • Lattimore would cost an acquiring team $15 million in cash but could count as low as $4 million against the cap. 

Here are the teams who make the most sense as potential suitors, grouped into three buckets: 




Bill Barnwell was onto something here. Jacksonville hired DC Ryan Nielsen this offseason who hired DB coach Kris Richard. Both men are familiar with Lattimore from their time on the Saints’ coaching staff, and Richard was Lattimore’s position coach for a stint. 

With Nielsen taking over, the Jaguars are expected to play more press coverage, both in zone and man schemes, than they did the past couple of years. That required some retooling of the cornerback depth chart this offseason. Jacksonville cut veteran Darious Williams and let Tre Herndon walk, adding Ronald Darby for low-end starting money to work across from Tyson Campbell, who’s in the final year of his rookie contract. The team also drafted CB Jarrian Jones in the third round but he’s probably a slot corner. 


Campbell’s career has been a rollercoaster so far, with an outstanding 2022 season sandwiched by a couple of rough campaigns. There are fair doubts about how well he’ll fit Nielsen’s system, it could go either way. The 30-year-old Darby is bordering on journeyman status, though he was a solid No. 2 for the Ravens last year.

Lattimore would be a major upgrade over either player, and would help turn a weakness into a potential strength for a Jaguars team that disappointed in 2023, but retained the core of a team that was expected to make some noise in the AFC last year. 

It’s also relevant that not only do the Jaguars have the third-most cap space in the league right now, but they have an extra third-round pick in 2025 as a result of a draft-day trade with the Vikings this year. That gives them some extra ammunition to shore up weaknesses on the roster. 



Raiders HC Antonio Pierce has been pretty frank about what he wants his team to look like in 2024 and the steps he sees as necessary to get there. One of the major needs the Raiders identified this offseason was a true No. 1 cornerback as the final piece in a solid secondary, teaming up with slot CB Nate Hobbs and former Patriots castoff CB Jack Jones.

The Raiders weren’t able to trade for a No. 1 corner. There weren’t any in free agency, and TE Brock Bowers ended up being too good to pass on in the first round of the draft instead of taking the top corner off the board. As of today, the Raiders still haven’t filled that need. 

Trading for Lattimore would fix that. He would be a major upgrade over current projected starter Jakorian Bennett, who would get another year to develop. He’d take some of the pressure off Jones and give Las Vegas someone to match up against opposing No. 1 receivers. The Raiders’ defense was quietly feisty last year and Lattimore would give DC Patrick Graham another weapon to deploy. That could help the Raiders take another step forward on that side of the ball, which will help Pierce play the kind of football he wants.


The catch is giving up a pick for Lattimore subtracts from Las Vegas’ assets to make a play for a quarterback next season. It’d also be a more aggressive move than GM Tom Telesco has typically preferred, though not without precedent. Former Chargers HC Brandon Staley successfully lobbied Telesco to trade for OLB Khalil Mack and I could see Pierce making a strong case as he tries to build upon a strong interim season. 

Dark Horses


There’s an obvious connection between Lattimore and Broncos HC Sean Payton, who drafted him in New Orleans. Broncos CB Patrick Surtain II is one of the best cornerbacks in the league right now, but the spot across from him has been a bit of a revolving door. Lattimore would give the Broncos one of the best cornerback duos in football and shore up the position in a major way. 


However, the Broncos have serious financial challenges right now as they manage the dead money from the failed Russell Wilson trade. They need to rebalance the roster and find players who can provide value as starters while on rookie contracts or low-cost deals. From a team-building perspective, it makes more sense to ride things out with Levi Wallace, Riley Moss, Damarri Mathis and others than to splurge for maybe just one year of Lattimore. 

That said, Payton is as aggressive as they come and hates to lose, so I would not completely rule out the idea of a splash trade to address one of the biggest weaknesses on the roster with a star player Payton knows well. 


Chiefs CB Trent McDuffie took a huge leap forward in his second season and looks like a rising star at the position. He’ll move into a much bigger role with the departure of Sneed this offseason, and it’ll be interesting to see what that looks like. McDuffie played most of his snaps in the slot in 2023 but is capable of playing outside corner at a high level as well. 


Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson are the other two starters along with McDuffie right now, and both of them are primarily outside players. The two combined for over 900 snaps in 2023 and both finished in the top 50 of PFF’s cornerback grades. The Chiefs have an established history of a pipeline at the cornerback spot, and Williams and Watson seem poised to continue that lineage. 

But what happens if training camp rolls around and Williams and Watson are getting toasted? Or if there’s a significant injury? The Chiefs haven’t been shy about their goals of winning a third straight Super Bowl, and they might be willing to stretch a bit to ensure they make history if the need arises. For that reason, a trade for Lattimore should not be discounted. He’d fit like a glove with DC Steve Spagnuolo with his skills in man coverage. 


Never rule out the Rams making a splash with a big trade. The team is in an interesting place once again coming into the 2024 season. Last year was supposed to be a transition year to shed dead money and set the Rams up to return to contention in the future. They still made the playoffs, losing in the wildcard round to the Lions. 


The transitions keep coming, however, with massive turnover on defense following the retirement of DT Aaron Donald and the loss of DC Raheem Morris. But while that side of the ball continues its overhaul, the Rams have just a few years left in the window for QB Matthew Stafford and WR Cooper Kupp on offense. They focused significant attention on shoring up the offensive line during the offseason despite the needs on defense. 

The Rams could feel some urgency to act and get the defense to a level that supports the offense. They added veteran CBs Darious Williams and Tre’Davious White in free agency to give them more experienced options over some of the young players who saw tons of snaps in 2023. A trade for Lattimore could complete the trifecta, letting Williams move into the slot where he’s excelled before. 

Los Angeles has a history of trading picks for short-term contributions from defensive backs before, and they don’t seem to value premium picks as much as other teams. The Rams already traded next year’s second-round pick to move up in the draft this year, so it just depends on how aggressive the team wants to be.


Lattimore is one of the best players potentially available who fills a position of need for the Rams. That makes this pairing worth watching. 



There’s a notable connection between Lattimore and Lions DC Aaron Glenn and HC Dan Campbell. Detroit checks all the boxes from a familiarity and scheme fit perspective, and the front office has been aggressive to fill needs. 

That’s the problem. The Lions traded a third-round pick for Davis and traded up to draft CB Terrion Arnold this offseason, along with giving out an interesting contract for former Raider Amik Robertson and bringing back Emmanuel Moseley. The Lions entered this offseason with a big need at cornerback but at this point they seem to have burned all their powder. 



This might be the final year of the 49ers’ Super Bowl window before some kind of roster reset in 2025, so you can’t rule out San Francisco being aggressive to address a need if it identifies one. Cornerback was one this offseason and the 49ers made a few moves to bring in reinforcements, signing veteran Isaac Yiadom and spending a third-rounder on Renardo Green. There are a few other dart throws on the roster, too. 

Lattimore would be a surefire upgrade but unless No. 1 CB Charvarius Ward goes down with a serious injury between now and Week 1, it’s hard to justify the investment. The 49ers will need all of their picks in the coming years to rebalance the roster so any trade has to be viewed as essential to their Super Bowl hopes this year. 


On paper, the Colts’ need at cornerback is one of the most severe in the league right now. Their two projected outside corners at the moment are 2023 second-rounder JuJu Brents and Dallis Flowers. Colts GM Chris Ballard is rolling the dice on those two. 


The thing is, he seems perfectly content to do that. Saying the Colts signed a handful of outsiders this offseason would be overstating things. Instead, they focused their efforts on retaining as many players from last year’s squad as possible. Their offseason approach compared to the Texans’ is a study in contrast even though Indianapolis was a play or two away from winning the AFC South instead of Houston. 

There’s a good argument for the Colts to trade for Lattimore and shore up one of the biggest weaknesses on defense in a year in which Indianapolis could be vying for the AFC South. It’s not Ballard’s style, though, at least not this year. 


From a talent perspective, Lattimore would be a significant upgrade and probably be Arizona’s best defensive player the second he landed on the roster. But Arizona has invested significant Day 2 draft capital in young players over the past couple of years, and they have to see what that crew can do first before sinking even more resources into a potential rental. 



Could the Falcons use a player like Lattimore? Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. He’d fill one of the biggest needs on the roster now which is a running mate for star CB AJ Terrell

Would the Saints trade Lattimore inside the NFC South? 

I wouldn’t bet on it. 

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