Marcus Williams feels like he took a “big step” in 2020

Saints safety Marcus Williams has emerged as one of the team’s key defensive pieces after his first four seasons.

A 2017 second-round pick out of Utah, Williams has started 60 career games for New Orleans, recording 13 interceptions and 30 passes defensed. The club demonstrated just how valuable he is to the secondary by giving him the franchise tag in the spring, meaning he’ll make $10.612 million in 2021.

The Saints still have until July 15 to strike a long-term deal with the 24-year-old safety.

For his part, Williams said recently that he made significant progress in 2020.

“I feel like I take a step forward every single day, and every time I stepped on the field last year I felt like I took a step forward,” Williams said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN. “And just with being a leader and being around my teammates and learning from other guys and having guys learning from me, it was a big step forward. Especially being in Year Four, it was a big step, I feel.”

The Saints will need Williams to continue making that steady progression. Being tight against the salary cap, New Orleans released No. 2 corner Janoris Jenkins earlier in the offseason. Top corner Marshon Lattimore is entering the final year of his contract. And fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins is 33.

Though the Saints have limited cap space, just last week the team displayed a willingness to sign a core player to a long-term deal by paying Ryan Ramczyk. With 10 days to the deadline, there’s time for New Orleans to do the same with Williams.