The New Orleans Saints have agreed to a five-year contract with former Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker David Hawthorne today, financial details of the deal have not yet been disclosed.
Hawthorne entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks in 2008, breaking into the starting lineup after multiple injuries to former starting middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
He had developed into one of the leagues better linebackers through the last three seasons totaling 338 tackles, 6 sacks, 15 pass deflections, 7 interceptions, and 5 forced fumbles.
Hawthorne can play both middle and outside linebacker positions, and the Saints could use help at both considering the potential suspensions looming over their current starters.
Hawthorne plays the run exceptionally well, but also excels in pass coverage given his seven interceptions.
Current starting middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma may not be available to the Saints at the start the season, which is a large reason the team signed Curtis Lofton two weeks ago on top of bringing in Hawthorne today.
A suspension is expected for Vilma stemming from his role in a bounty program, after allegations surfaced he offered $15K to the man that could knock Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.
Vilma’s production has been on the decline for some time, and he is due a $5.4 million dollar base salary in 2012.
Given the Saints had a reported $1.4 million in cap space before signing Hawthorne, cuts are likely coming down the pipe
Scott Shanle has been the teams starting strongside linebacker for years.
But, not unlike Vilma, Shanle’s production has declined over past seasons and the Saints have to make a move at strongside linebacker if they expect defensive improvement in 2012.
However Shanle is only set to make $1.05 million in 2012, as well as receiving a roster bonus of $500,000 and workout bonuses of $200,000.
The Saints could recoop up to $5.4 million dollars by releasing Vilma according to multiple reports, and logically it makes sense that the team part ways with him regardless of his popularity with fans and teammates.
Shanle is still relatively cheap to keep on the roster — even as a backup.
With the sudden influx of talent into the Saints linebacking core the unit fans see hit the field should be completely different than in seasons past.
Lofton has been probably already been pegged as the teams starting middle linebacker, and with that said Hawthorne could be placed at weakside linebacker in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.
Meanwhile on the strong side the starting positon could come down to between Martez Wilson and recently acquired former Rams linebacker Chris Chamberlain.