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Saints Options at Linebacker

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; New Orleans Saints Blog - ESPN The New Orleans Saints created a huge vacancy in the middle of their defense by releasing captain and signal caller Curtis Lofton on Monday. They'll have even more holes to fill if they elect ...

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Old 03-10-2015, 07:31 AM   #1
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Saints Options at Linebacker

New Orleans Saints Blog - ESPN

The New Orleans Saints created a huge vacancy in the middle of their defense by releasing captain and signal caller Curtis Lofton on Monday.

They'll have even more holes to fill if they elect to release fellow inside linebacker David Hawthorne and/or let top backup Ramon Humber walk in free agency.

The bad news is that there aren't many can't-miss options waiting to replace them in free agency or the draft. The good news is they should be somewhat affordable.

The draft. The Saints have never drafted a linebacker in the first two rounds in the Sean Payton-Mickey Loomis era, in part because the coaching staff has preferred veterans acquired via trade or free agency. But maybe they'll force themselves to change that approach this year if they keep the cupboard bare. No inside linebackers jump off the page as a potential pick for the Saints at No. 13 in Round 1. But Washington's Shaq Thompson, UCLA's Eric Kendricks, Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney and Miami (Fla.)'s Denzel Perryman are potential second-round options.

Mason Foster, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Age 26, 6-1, 241. Foster is a middle linebacker who has started ever since his rookie year in 2011, showing nice potential (a total of 281 tackles, five interceptions, six sacks and two forced fumbles in his first three years). However, Foster battled minor injuries last year and reportedly wasn't a great fit in new coach Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 defense, which calls for the middle linebacker to be heavily involved in pass coverage. That could make him a younger, cheaper version of Lofton. The Saints have expressed interest, according to NOLA.com's Larry Holder.

Brandon Spikes, Buffalo Bills. Age 27, 6-2, 255. Another guy who has earned a reputation as a standout physical run-stuffer who is limited in pass coverage. Spikes is widely regarded as a two-down linebacker -- but a very good one. He had 54 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble last year in 10 starts after spending his first four years in New England.

Rolando McClain, Dallas Cowboys. Age 25, 6-4, 259. McClain had a resurgent year in 2014 after a turbulent start to his career with the Oakland Raiders. The former No. 8 pick in the draft retired twice before coming back with the Baltimore Ravens and being dealt to Dallas. McClain battled a variety of injuries last year but still finished with 81 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one sack.

Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears. Age 34, 6-1, 244. The seven-time Pro Bowler has primarily played outside linebacker in a 4-3 system but could move inside. Briggs missed eight games last year with groin and rib injuries but remains a solid run defender and finished with 34 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.

Akeem Ayers, New England Patriots. Age 25, 6-3, 255. A versatile, athletic linebacker who could play inside or outside, Ayers revived his career after being traded from Tennessee to New England last year. He had four sacks over the final nine games while being used mostly as a pass-rusher. But he has experience playing inside, too, in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.

Malcolm Smith, Seattle Seahawks. Age 25, 6-0, 226. Smith was the Super Bowl MVP a year ago after returning an interception 69 yards for a touchdown in Seattle's win over Denver. But he remained only a part-time starter as a 4-3 outside linebacker last season with 37 tackles, two forced fumbles, zero sacks and zero interceptions.

Justin Durant, Dallas Cowboys. Age 29, 6-1, 230. Durant has been a solid, versatile linebacker for eight years in Dallas, Detroit and Jacksonville. He played in only six games last year because of a biceps tear, but he still managed 49 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles. ESPN scouting analyst KC Joyner, who said he tends to take the Al Davis approach to not over-investing in linebackers, suggested Durant as a good short-term solution for New Orleans.

Bruce Carter, Dallas Cowboys. Age 27, 6-2, 240. Carter has been more of an up-and-down player in his career as a starting outside linebacker, but the good stretches have been intriguing. He had three interceptions and three tackles-for-loss in Dallas' final three games last year, and he had 11 tackles in the regular-season finale

Nate Irving, Denver Broncos. Age 26, 6-1, 245. Another projected two-down linebacker who is better against the run than the pass. Irving became a full-time starter for the first time last year, but he was limited to eight games because of a knee injury. He had 46 tackles and one sack.
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Old 03-10-2015, 07:52 AM   #2
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

You forgot Greg Hardy...
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Old 03-10-2015, 08:14 AM   #3
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

A couple of years ago Lance Briggs would have been a great option. Right now thou...

I hope we can find a gem in the draft.
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Old 03-10-2015, 08:27 AM   #4
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

Originally Posted by Crusader View Post
A couple of years ago Lance Briggs would have been a great option. Right now thou...

I hope we can find a gem in the draft.
Yeah, thinking the same thing. I wouldn't mind McClain because he is young and if for the right price. I wouldn't overpay though
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Old 03-10-2015, 08:30 AM   #5
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

McClain makes for such a risky investment especially with his breakout season last year(will cost more money now). I would love to have him if we knew that we could keep his head on straight... but there's just no way of knowing that.

That's a good strong list of options.
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Old 03-10-2015, 09:10 AM   #6
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

Bruce Carter gives up on way too many plays & spends a lot of time in the tub - PASS.

McClain - hell YES . Re unite him with his old LB coach from his Bama days. The guy is a nut case but I've seen him first hand run down RB's in the flat & will destroy you with aggression at the point of attack. SPEED & QUICKNESS.

Briggs - ? Would have been a great option for us 4 years ago.

Haven't seen enough of the other linebackers to form an opinion.
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Old 03-10-2015, 09:12 AM   #7
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

Mason Foster huge impact in pass coverage with little or no drop off in run defense.

Akeem Ayers- Love watching this guys game develop in new england. talk about leaps and bounds the short time he was here. upside is the sales pitch here. inside outside does not matter. solid rusher. good tackler and solid in pass coverage.

top two sign them and go work on another position in fa
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Old 03-10-2015, 09:12 AM   #8
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

My worry would be giving McClain money. You winder the minute he get a long term does he switch off again
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Old 03-10-2015, 09:48 AM   #9
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

Draft Beasley in the first if he's there, and draft Perryman or Stephone Anthony in the 2nd. I like the drafts linebackers this year. What round is Kwon Alexander projected?
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Old 03-10-2015, 10:38 AM   #10
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Re: Saints Options at Linebacker

I'd probably only look at foster and mcclain. Mcclain only if we can structure his contract to protect ourselves. Not so high on the rest. We need linebackers that can cover some ground. No disrespect to Lofton but we don't need a younger version of Lofton. We need athletes and speed at the position. I believe we can find thumper's and run stuffers almost anywhere.
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