With the 2023 NFL Draft now behind us, the day of reckoning for the 2020 NFL Draft class has arrived. Ahead of the May 2 deadline for teams to pick up the fifth-year option for those former first-round picks, the New Orleans Saints made a move that might surprise some of their fans and possibly new quarterback Derek Carr.
When concerning on-the-fence type of players who have not been as good as advertised but still productive enough to inspire confidence in a breakthrough, it is hard to know which course to take with these options. New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis is not willing to risk $14 million in 2024 that offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz takes that next step and is declining his fifth-year option, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Ruiz, who was selected with the No. 24 overall pick three years ago, has primarily started at right guard for the Saints. Although his Pro Football Focus grades for run and pass blocking leave room for improvement, the 23-year-old out of Michigan was a bright spot on what was an overall vulnerable offensive line. Ruiz allowed three sacks and 14 pressures.
Protecting $150 million Carr is of paramount importance. Loomis and company will be forced to don the court jester hats if this major investment does not result in a postseason appearance. The team has to ensure the veteran’s success by giving him talent as well as ample time to throw the football. If Ruiz stays steady this season, then both him and his quarterback should be happy for the foreseeable future.
A potential big payday could still be in the works, but it might depend on how this offense bounces back after a disappointing 2022-23 campaign.