NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints actually locked up two of their star players to contract extensions on Saturday before kicking off their season with a 34-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Saints signed All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis to a three-year extension worth $27 million plus incentives, according to a source, with $18 million guaranteed.
Davis said he passed up the opportunity to pursue free agency next year because, "I didn't want to leave this family, I didn't want to leave this brotherhood" after he found such a perfect fit with a "phenomenal team" near his home state of Mississippi.
"Man, I'm just so blessed. Me, my family, it's so much of a blessing I really can't even put it into words," Davis said. "I mean, in 2016 I was back in Cleveland, I was contemplating retirement. And I prayed, 'God if you're not done with me in this game, use me. Rejuvenate my mind, rejuvenate my body.' And he did. And ever since then I've been successful."
News of Davis' extension was first reported by Fox Sports.
Davis, 31, signed his deal Saturday night on the heels of running back Alvin Kamara's five-year extension earlier in the day.
Both players were heading into the final year of their existing contracts. And both players immediately started paying dividends in Sunday's victory.
Kamara scored the Saints' first two touchdowns of the season -- a 12-yard screen pass and a 6-yard run. Davis had six tackles and a sack.
Davis, who began his career with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, has played his best football since signing with the Saints in 2018. The 6-foot-2, 248-pound linebacker had a combined 221 tackles over the past two seasons, with a total of nine sacks, one interception and 16 pass defenses.
Davis also stepped up as a team captain for the Saints, taking over their pregame huddle speeches while quarterback Drew Brees was sidelined by a thumb injury.
"Obviously, he's one of our leaders, he's a physical player, he runs well," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "He's found his niche here, too. And I'm proud of the role he's taken not only as a linebacker but as a leader on this team, too. That's something as a head coach you can never take for granted."
The Saints had the NFL's best run defense over a two-year span from 2018 to 2019, allowing just 85.8 rushing yards per game. And Davis was named a first-team All-Pro for the first time last season.
Locking up Davis and Kamara is huge for the Saints' long-term stability. However, their salary-cap situation is awfully daunting for next year, when the cap could plummet as low as $175 million per team because of lost revenues from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Saints already had more than $240 million in cap costs projected for 2021 before the Kamara and Davis deals. And they still have to make room for upcoming extensions with standout players such as cornerback Marshon Lattimore and offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk in the near future.