The New Orleans Saints are reportedly hot to land free agent linebacker James Laurinaitis, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Rams.
Many NFL evaluators have noted a decline in the play of the 29-year-old linebacker the past year with the Rams, but he still managed to rack up 109 tackles, one sack, one interception and a safety.
I know this seems like it would be nothing more than the addition of an aging player on the decline to a unit that hopes to be a young defense on the incline. I know a 29 year old linebacker that the St. Louis Rams had no problem cutting ties with isn't the key to transforming the worst defense in NFL history into a formidable group that can potentially compliment a Drew Brees' led offense. With that said, the Saints idea of veteran leadership on the defensive side of the ball last year was Brandon Browner. Yes, that Brandon Browner. He wasn't just a leader, he was a captain. So yeah, James Laurinaitis might not be the same player he was in 2012, but he also doesn't exactly have the biggest -or most reliable- shoes to fill. The fact of the matter is that even the youngest, fastest teams in the league need experienced players to help them gel. Considering the entirety of the Saints returning linebacker core has no more than one NFL season under their belt, a player like Laurinaitis can be just the type of mentor they need. A consistent, low risk, instinctive tackler that seems to be a positive presence in the locker room? That might not seem like much, but let's be honest, it's far more than the Saints front seven was working with this past season.
Yeah, Laurinaitis is on the downside of his career, but he also had over 100 tackles last year. I haven't run the numbers, but if you took out the plays that a Saints defender pushed a player out of bounds 30 yards downfield I think the entirety of their defense would have been hard pressed to get to triple digits. A sack? An interception? A safety? All by the same player? That sounds like a big play, a turnover, and points to me. I feel like I haven't seen someone do that in New Orleans since the days that they were putting price tags on the head of opposing quarterbacks. No, the Saints wouldn't be adding a game breaking player, but they would be adding an effective NFL veteran that could replace David Hawthorne. That's damn near a Beyonce level upgrade.