The New Orleans Saints entered the free agency period knowing they had to address the linebacker position. And while they did sign A.J. Klein to a 4-year deal, they should look to sign at least one more.
The Saints currently have five guys at the linebacker spot who could make an impact, but the problems remain. We don’t know if Stephone Anthony can be the player we all hoped he would be after he was selected with the 31st pick in the 2015 draft. Dannell Ellerbe health is always a big question mark, and while Nathan Stupar and Craig Robertson looked decent last year, they often struggled covering players down the field. Klein has shown signs of being able to cover running backs and tight ends but according to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a passer rating of 119.6 when targeted in 2016.
Mike, or middle linebacker, seems settled with Robertson and Klein, but the strong and weak side could use an upgrade and fortunately for the Saints there are several options left in free agency.
Zach Brown, 27 years old
Brown was signed by the Bills on a one-year deal last offseason, and he turned out to be a steal. He finished second in total tackles with 149, and he consistently showed his ability to cover the field where he finished with one interception and four passes defended. The Saints needs a player like this to cover guys and makes plays in the run game, and Brown could be a great addition.
Gerald Hodges, 26 years old
Hodges just finished his two-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers, where he played well, especially last season where he finished with 83 combined tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions. Hodges put up these numbers while only playing 51 percent of the defensive snaps, which is very impressive for any player. Hodges is young and talented and the Saints shouldn't hesitate to give him a call about coming in for a visit.
Other notable options
- Perry Riley, 28 years old: Riley could return to the Raiders, but could look for a bigger role in hopes of returning to his prime form with the Redskins from 2012-2014. He’d be able to contribute on special teams, and fill in as needed.
- DeAndre Levy, 29 years old: He’s a tremendous injury risk, playing in only 6 of the past 32 games in two years. Still, he’d be worth a look to see if the Saints could kick the tires on another veteran who turns 30 in less than a week.
- Sio Moore, 26 years old: Two decent seasons in Oakland to start his career have been followed up with a disappointing 2015 in Indy and a somewhat resurgence in Arizona in 2016. He’d be an interesting player to watch.
- Sam Barrington, 26 years old: After a small stint with the Saints last season, a return could make sense if the team liked what he brought to the table.
Sean Spence , 26 years old (signed by the Colts )
When it comes to secondary and defensive ends the 2017 draft is extremely deep but they same thing can't be said for the linebacker position. The Saints should, therefore, focus on free agency and keep their options open for the draft.