When Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke to Cesar Ruiz after the Saints made him the 24th pick in the draft on Thursday night, he told the Michigan product that he was coming to New Orleans to play offensive line and that he should tell reporters the same thing.
The lack of specificity regarding his position was deliberate. Erik McCoy started at center for the Saints as a rookie in 2019 and Ruiz started there for the Wolverines, but Payton said he feels both players have “guard flex” and suggested one player will be moving positions because “we weren’t drafting someone that high to come in and be a backup.”
The Saints signed left guard Andrus Peat to a five-year deal last month, which suggests either McCoy or Ruiz will be heading to right guard. Veteran Larry Warford is currently atop the depth chart at that position, but Payton said everything’s up in the air.
“Every one of these guys is going to come in and compete and so Larry’s going to have to compete and we feel like we will go into training camp and that’s how you improve your team, but [Ruiz] was one of the better interior linemen I’ve seen in a while and I think we’re getting a player with great physical ability and we’re also getting a player that has fantastic makeup,” Payton said.
Warford is set to make $7.65 million with a cap hit of $12.875 million in the final year of his contract. Cutting him would clear $7.75 million of cap space while trading him would open up $8.5 million.