For the first time in a long time, the Saints linebacking core was consistent and healthy the entire season. Demario Davis provided a veteran spark and leadership just like Jonathan Vilma did when he was acquired in a trade in 2008. Alex Anzalone returned from a shoulder injury and became a force to be reckoned with. A.J. Klein’s communication was a major key to a revamped defense by getting guys in the right position to make plays. Not to mention, credit is all due to coach Mike Nolan, who has vastly improved this position group the past two year. This off-season, the linebackers do not need much improvement but a little extra depth could not hurt at all.
Demario Davis | A.J. Klein | Alex Anzalone | Craig Robertson | Manti Te’o (FA) | Vince Biegel
The starters are pretty much back from last year and their versatility is a big plus. Robertson and Biegel both re-signed before the off-season officially began and will be key contributors on special teams once again. The only question mark is Te’o who stepped up big when injuries piled up in 2017 and was a healthy inactive for a majority of last season. He’s about to hit his prime and has not seen much interest so far in free agency. Keeping Te’o would solidify the position group but there are a few options the Saints could look at in the market.
Free Agent Targets
Clay Matthews | Packers
Even though he is a 3-4 linebacker, Matthews still has enough left in the tank. Signing him to be a situational pass rusher could be a nice addition to an already talented group.
Kyle Emanuel | Chargers
A former starter who can play inside and outside and could also make an impact on special teams. Could be a more versatile version of Te’o.
Will Compton | Titans
Could be a solid backup in the middle and provide veteran presence. Very athletic and aggressive.
Unless the Saints wanted to land a big game changer, this does not seem like an option for now.
Given that linebacker is not a position of need immediately, it seems unlikely the Saints will draft one unless someone comes to mind. Undrafted free agents seems logical in this situation.
The Saints are pretty much set at linebacker. They have veteran leadership and versatility to go a long way and keep their play consistent this coming season. Only concern that they still have is in coverage, mainly tight ends and running backs out the backfield. Hopefully Dennis Allen will use the other weapons in the secondary to keep the linebackers spying on the QB and putting pressure on them all season long.
Follow Dom Lewis on Twitter @BigFella122