Here’s what it would cost for the Saints to pick up Cesar Ruiz’s fifth-year option
There we go: Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer shared an NFL memo on Tuesday that confirmed the fifth-year option values for players picked in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, including New Orleans Saints right guard Cesar Ruiz. We had a good idea of the amount Ruiz was likely going to cost, thanks to the league’s new tiered system, but now it’s official.
If the Saints exercise Ruiz’s fifth-year option for the 2024 season, he’ll count against the salary cap by a fully-guaranteed $14.175 million. They’ve picked up the fifth-year option on every first-round pick New Orleans has drafted since Brandin Cooks back in 2013, and we’ve written before that Ruiz should be an easy decision. It’s a safe bet that they’ll do the same with him before the May 1 deadline.
How are these values decided? All offensive linemen (tackles, guards, and centers) are lumped together, and the different tiers are sorted by Pro Bowl appearances, playtime criteria, and a base level simply for having been a former first-round pick. Over The Cap’s analysts explained the process in detail here. Here’s how they stack up for offensive linemen:
Multiple Pro Bowls: $18,244,000
One Pro Bowl: $16,660,000
Playtime criteria: $14,175,000
One common tactic the Saints have used with these fifth-year options is to restructure them (it’s initially contained within a single base salary) so that much of the cap damage is spread out over automatically-voiding void years in the future. It’s what they did with Marcus Davenport, Marshon Lattimore, and Ryan Ramczyk in the past. Taking that route with Ruiz in 2024 would set his salary cap hit at about $3.8 million, though it risks leaving as much as $10.3 million behind in dead money for 2025 if he doesn’t sign a contract extension.
That’s a risk the Saints have shown they’re willing to take. They were able to lock up Lattimore and Ramczyk under long-term deals, but Davenport is on track to depart in free agency and leave a dead money cap hit of $7.6 million behind. Ruiz’s arrow is trending up, though, and he should earn a solid contract extension with New Orleans after another strong season. If nothing else, picking up his fifth-year option for 2024 buys the Saints some time to put out other fires before turning attention to his situation.
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