Public enemy #1 on blogs, the man that makes people grind their teeth when he does a poor job and gets little recognition when he does well. Scott Shanle can either be the most hated man on the Saints team or someone everyone forgets about. As Shanle becomes a free agent, a very important question must be asked: should the Saints keep him? If they don't, who would be the best replacement?
Problems can arise from this situation very quickly. If the Saints go after a premier linebacker, it can get expensive quick. With Brees' contract needing an extension and almost 30 free agents to re-sign, as well as the draft, there might not be cap space left to improve this spot.
Make the jump to see if Shanle should stay and if the Saints can afford a new linebacker.
How good is Shanle anyway?
First of all, how good is Shanle at being disruptive in the backfield? In his career with the Saints, he has had six sacks. However, in 2009 and 2010, he has had none. How about against the run? In 2010, he had only one stuff, or a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. While with the Saints, he has had 8.5 stuffs total. However, Jo-Lonn Dunbar has had 4.5 stuffs in only two years and Roman Harper has had twelve stuffs in three years! So he's medicore against the run and disrupting the backfield.
How about his tackling ability? While with the Saints, Shanle has had a combined 397 tackles, of which 86 were assists. Jonathan Vilma, on the other hand, has 347 tackles in the 3 years he has been with the Saints (leaving out his appearance with the Jets decreases his total by a good 350 tackles). 92 of those were assists. So Shanle is probably an average tackler.
How about his ability against the pass? As this is harder to gauge, I will try to use Football Outsiders for help. The problem is, they don't have anything related to this, so draw your own conclusions from this data. In a base 4-3 and most defensive packages, the TE and the RB are covered by linebackers, which includes but is not limited to Shanle. Covering TE and RB the Saints were 27th and 26th respectively. Now, all the blame cannot be placed at Shanle, but you can put some of the blame on him.
Finally, turnovers: how many turnovers was Shanle able to produce? Since 2006, Shanle has forced five fumbles and two interceptions. In his three years with the Saints, Vilma has forced five fumbles and five interceptions. However, Jo-Lonn Dunbar has forced no turnovers. So not all is bad for Shanle.
Possible replacements for Shanle?
Here is a list of linebackers whose contracts expire in 2011. Looking over this list, the only big names I see would fit in a 3-4 and not in a 4-3. More than likely, if the Saints do go out and sign another free agent linebacker, he would have the same skill set as Shanle. The Saints' best bet would be a replacement via the draft, which would give the team a younger linebacker at a cheaper price. Or for Jonathan Casillas to finally heal.
Should the Saints re-sign Shanle?
Shanle is a linebacker who has no real strengths or weaknesses. He is a linebacker that no one will remember in five years but gets the job done. Can Shanle be improved? More than likely. However, the options are limited outside of the draft and, more than likely, much more expensive. If Shanle is willing to stay for a reasonable amount of money he should be re-signed, in my opinion. However, the Saints have to start thinking of other options, as Scott will soon be 32 years old and his performance may start to decline.
Do you guys and gals think Shanle should stay or go? If he should go, who would you replace him with, realistically speaking?