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NFL Free Agency 2013: Will Jim Leonhard be a Good Fit for Saints?

The New Orleans Saints made a surprising move in free agency, bringing in veteran safety Jim Leonhard. But does he fit the needs of the team?


I'm sure that I wasn't alone in doing the dog whistle-like, head cocked to the side puzzled look when news broke Monday afternoon that the New Orleans Saints had signed safety Jim Leonhard to a one-year deal.

I say surprising because there was no indication that the Saints were even looking at the safety position since current safety Roman Harper appeared to be completely safe for the moment and there was no indication that he was even going to restructure his contract.

Another surprising factor was that if the Saints were going to sign a safety, there were other options out there like Kerry Rhodes, Gerald Sensabaugh (there's your obligatory Rob Ryan connection player), or even Charles Woodson.

Of course what isn't a surprise is that they saw Leonhard as a veteran player with decent skills at safety. Oh yeah. I alost forgot that the Saints likely signed him for a cheap price that sweetened the deal considering their salary cap situation ($2 million prior to Leonhard's deal).

Also, even though there isn't a Rob Ryan defensive coordinator connection, there still is a Ryan one. Rob's brother Rex Ryan likely gave Leonhard a good word and seal of approval considering their history together.

Rex was Leonhard's defensive coordinator when both were with the Baltimore Ravens. When Ryan left to become the head coach of the New York Jets he brought players like linebacker Bart Scott and Leonhard with him to help rebuild the defense.

Leonhard did just that and now brings with him knowledge of the type of defense that Rob will be using with the Saints. Also, Leonhard had some of his best years as a safety under the Ryan lead defense.

From 2008-2011 with the Ravens and Jets, he had 203 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions. Even as a backup for the Denver Broncos during the 2012-2013 season, Leonhard had 18 tackles and two interceptions.

While his frame isn't too much of a red flag (5'8" and 188 lbs.) it's not much bulk for a safety. But all that considered, Leonhard has proven he can still be aggressive and make plays when he must, regardless.

But a red flag pops up regarding his injury history. Leonhard fractured his tibia in 2010 and then tore his patellar tendon in his right knee the following year. Both required surgery and both landed him on consecutive seasons of injured reserve.

Still, Leonhard stayed healthy this past season with the Broncos and given his relatively young age (30) hopefully he can stay that way and help provide some competition in the secondary as well as on special teams.

Speaking of which, that's another added bonus if you will for the Saints. Leonhard has been used as a returner in the kicking game. For his career he has 110 returns (kick and punt) for 1,183 yards. Not saying he'll unseat Darren Sproles or Courtney Roby, but he's still an option.

It's still too early to see if Leonhard will be a signing that really fits the Saints or not. But at least they have a high character player that could add some leadership going into the upcoming season for a defensive unit that needs it.