Cameron Jordan extension a win-win for Saints; Michael Thomas next?

METAIRIE, La. -- Sean Payton must have had contract extensions on the brain Tuesday after he finished talking about defensive end Cameron Jordan’s new three-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.

Because when Payton was asked a question about receiver Michael Thomas’ growth, the coach said, “He’ll be the next one, I’m sure. [General manager Mickey Loomis] will be working, and I know that they’ve probably already begun discussions.”

Thomas, who is scheduled to become a free agent next year, should command a new deal in the neighborhood of $20 million per year at some point this year or next.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the Saints, who also have guys such as Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater and Andrus Peat scheduled to be free agents in 2020. Alvin Kamara, Larry Warford, Sheldon Rankins and Demario Davis have expiring deals in 2021; Marshon Lattimore, Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk would be free agents in 2022.

A roster this talented doesn’t come cheap for long.

But the Saints can only hope that the rest of their megadeals come together as smoothly as this one did with Jordan, who is now signed through 2023. He had two years and $19 million remaining on his previous contract.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the extension is worth between $17.5 million and $18.5 million over the three additional years, with more than $42 million guaranteed.

That practically feels like a bargain in this era, when defensive linemen Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald, DeMarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark have recently signed deals worth more than $20 million per year.

But it is probably a fair market value for Jordan, as the four-time Pro Bowl defensive end turns 30 next month and wasn’t scheduled to hit the open market until 2021. And it does make him the seventh-highest-paid defensive lineman in the NFL based on average salary, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Most importantly, the two sides got this deal done without any holdouts or contentious negotiations. Jordan told ESPN earlier this offseason that he just wanted to be paid fairly -- but more than anything, “I just want to be a Saints lifer.”

He backed up those comments on Tuesday.

“I’ve always said it’s not about being the highest-paid player for me,” Jordan said. “My goal is to win a Super Bowl here. Then my goal will be to win another Super Bowl. I’ve always said that New Orleans has become my home. My kids are in New Orleans. I’ll be in New Orleans ‘til they decide they don’t want me no more.

“My dad [Steve Jordan] played for the Vikings for 13 years. I always said I want to be with the same team for the rest of my career.”

At some point the Saints might have to start making some tough financially related cuts to their roster. They already have more than $26 million in “dead money” scheduled to count against their salary cap in 2020 because of the way they have structured deals to defer cap costs into future years.

I wonder, for example, what they will do with Peat, Bridgewater and free-agent safety Vonn Bell next year, among others.

But Jordan’s deal shouldn’t force any immediate salary-cap repercussions because he already carried a cap charge of $14 million this year. And the Saints have proved time and again that they will spend money to add or retain core players.

Jordan is on a very short list of the most important ones.

The 6-foot-4, 287-pound Jordan had a good start to his career as a first-round draft pick in 2011. But he has really developed into an elite defender in recent years. He earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2017 after a career-high 13 sacks. Then he earned second-team honors with 12 sacks last season.

Jordan has always been one of the league’s best run-stopping defensive ends as well. And he has really matured as a leader and team captain in recent years, while also being heavily involved in community activities.

The Saints correctly decided that Jordan was a player they couldn’t afford to lose -- just as they will decide with Thomas soon.