Saints' Marshon Lattimore: 'I feel like I'm the best in the league'

As Marshon Lattimore continues to seek a contract extension, he set the bar rather high for himself with his comments. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

METAIRIE, La. -- Cornerback Marshon Lattimore declined on Tuesday to discuss his offseason arrest on a stolen gun charge. And he declined to discuss the state of any possible contract extension with the New Orleans Saints.

But the former first-round draft pick, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and three-time Pro Bowler wasn’t shy about setting a lofty bar for himself as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract.

“I feel like I’m the best in the league,” said Lattimore, who turned 25 last month. “That’s just me being confident in myself, knowing what I can do and what I’ve done out there. I feel like I’m the best.”

If Lattimore hopes to be paid like the best, it would mean a contract extension in the range of $20 million per year to match those recently signed by stars like Jalen Ramsey and Marlon Humphrey.

It’s unclear if Lattimore’s chances of landing a contract of that magnitude will be affected by his March arrest in his hometown of Cleveland (the legal process and any possible NFL discipline is pending). Lattimore said Tuesday he doesn’t think it will.

In the meantime, though, Lattimore and the Saints reached a win-win agreement that created some desperately needed cap space for the Saints. A source confirmed that Lattimore agreed to convert most of his scheduled $10.2 million salary into a bonus and add voidable years to the deal, which will allow the Saints to spread out his cap hit over multiple years.

Lattimore could have played hardball while holding out for a real extension. But by getting paid up front and reducing the size of his base salary in 2021, he will now stand to lose less money if he misses any games due to a suspension.

Regardless of his legal situation, this is setting up to be a huge season for Lattimore as he seeks to solidify his status among the top tier of NFL cornerbacks.

The 6-foot, 192-pounder has displayed one of the league’s best combinations of size and speed since he was drafted with the 11th overall pick out of Ohio State in 2017. He has 10 career interceptions and 55 passes defensed. And he has been especially good when matched up against top receivers -- including a history of dominance against Tampa Bay Buccaneers rival Mike Evans.

The biggest knock against Lattimore has been a perceived lack of consistency, with Lattimore himself admitting in the past he needed to improve his intensity and focus against less-heralded receivers.

Lattimore said Tuesday he thinks that criticism has been overblown, however.

“I’ve always got room to get better, so I’m never satisfied with what I did the past year. I think I gave up too much (last season), to me, in my eyes. But that’s just me wanting to be great. I don’t like giving up anything,” Lattimore said. “I feel like the consistency is there. I think a lot of people just ran with that, ‘I was inconsistent.’ Plays happen. We’re all in the league for a reason.”

Lattimore said he looks forward to working with first-year Saints defensive backs coach Kris Richard, who has had great success in the past with both the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary and with the Dallas Cowboys. Former Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn is now the defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions.

Lattimore said he couldn’t compare the two yet, since he just started working with Richard during this week’s mandatory minicamp. The Saints have not been holding traditional practice sessions yet in the spring while focusing mainly on conditioning and classroom work.

On the flip side, Lattimore said he will miss working against Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones twice a year.

“I am (going to miss Jones),” Lattimore said. “That’s good work. I look forward to that competition, going and playing against guys like that, Julio and big names. I just like to compete against the best.”

They’ll still get to see each other this season when the Tennessee Titans host the Saints in Week 10.