The Salary Cap Costs of Trading Marshon Lattimore

Some of the news coming out of the combine this week is that some teams believe that Saints CB Marshon Lattimore is on the trade block, which is not surprising given that the Saints renegotiated his contract last December to open up the possibility of a trade. The contract can be a bit confusing so I decided to put together this post and try to explain the ins and outs of the salary cap impact of trading Lattimore.

The contract structure

Lattimore’s original contract called for a salary of $15 million in 2024 of which $12 million was fully guaranteed. That contract would have left the Saints with a cap charge of about $26 million in 2024 which was not a number they likely could handle on their salary cap. While they could have restructured his contract prior to the start of the league year just like they do everyone else that would have blocked the team from being able to trade him.

Instead, the Saints proactively worked with Lattimore to adjust his contract so they could lower his salary cap charge like in a restructure but also maintaining the ability to trade him in 2024. The team did this by reducing his base salary to the league minimum and converting the rest of his salary to an option bonus that would prorate over five years. This would bring his salary cap charge down to $14.6 million.

The difference here is that the Saints would not be responsible for paying Lattimore in the event that he was traded as long as the trade occurs prior to the exercise of the option. This follows a model that was first designed I believe by Philadelphia and made notable by the Packers as a way that they could trade Aaron Rodgers in 2023. So this restructure basically announced to the NFL that Lattimore is available if you want him.

The rest of the contract for Lattimore remained the same with salaries of $18 and $18.5 million in 2025 and 2026 plus some void years thrown on there for salary cap purposes.

The cost of a trade for the Saints

If the Saints were to trade Lattimore they still have to account for all of the money that he had received as a bonus, which is a lot since the Saints have had to restructure his contract for cap relief so many times. In the three years he has been under contract, he has been paid $53.2 million in signing bonuses to just $3.1 million in base salary and other bonuses. At a minimum that means the Saints have to account for $31.27 million in cap charges if he is traded prior to June 1. This would cause the Saints to lose over $16 million in cap room and would not make much sense for them.

Trading in the summer allows the Saints to use the benefit of the post June 1 treatment of those bonuses and have it work a bit better on their salary cap. In both cases the team would also need to account for the option prorations of which they would receive a credit the following year since it was not paid, but odds are the Saints might follow a similar mode to the Packers and Jets and negotiate the option out of 2024 and into 2025 and then have the team that trades for him put it back in 2024 after the trade. Here is what the cap charges look like in the different scenarios.

Trade date20242025
Pre June 1$31,278,154$0
Post June 1 (option out)$10,648,317$20,629,837
Post June 1 (option still in)$13,406,317$17,871,837

Note that in the post June 1 option where the option remains in the contract that his 2025 dead money will technically be the $20.6 million number but they will have a cap adjustment to increase their cap room by $2.758 million, so the $17.8M is the net impact on their cap in 2025.

The numbers make it pretty clear why this would be a summer rather than spring trade and the team has until late August to move him. After that time the Saints become responsible for keeping him. At that point they would still have his $14.6 million cap charge this year but his dead money in 2025 would then be $31.67 million, again backing the team into a corner with his contract.

What is the cost to the acquiring team?

The team trading for Lattimore would take on his contract as is. They would have the decision to either pick up the option to defer the cap charges or to simply take all of the hit in 2024. Here is the cost on the cap if the team picks up the option in the contract:

YearSalary Cap ChargeDead Money
2027 (void)$5,516,000$5,516,000

Here is what the charges look like if the option is not exercised and the team simply pays the salary.

YearSalary Cap ChargeDead Money
2027 (void)$0$0

So basically the structure of the contract allows any team in the NFL to trade for Lattimore because the cap charge could be as low as $4 million in 2024 and the team would still have an option to release him the next year with minimal cap charges. Lattimore has no guaranteed money in his contract after 2024 so there is nothing that would lock a team into him beyond this year.

What might trade compensation look like?

Probably not too much. Jalen Ramsey who was just one year older was traded for a 3rd round pick and a 3rd round tight end who never saw the field in two years. Lattimore is not considered as good as Ramsey and has a far more extensive injury history. Both cases are going to be seen as salary dumps which lessens the value. So you might be looking at something like a 5th round pick being the base compensation. The benefit for the Saints is because this would be a trade that happens post draft it may be easier to get conditions on availability and team success that could get it close to the Ramsey range. The Saints would probably want to get the trade done before the start of camp which would limit their liability in the event of Lattimore being injured in camp.

Should the Saints make this trade?

I think so. The Saints are busy digging out of a massive salary cap hole and they clearly saw Lattimore as one of the few pieces they are willing to move so if the situation presents itself they should go for it. If they do not make the trade this year it may only be harder to move him in 2025 and there is no guarantee that he would be willing to modify his contract to help the Saints with the cap after they already dangled him out there for a trade.