Linebacker Curtis Lofton was often a pain in the side of the New Orleans Saints until this past offseason when he decided to make the jump from the Atlanta Falcons to become a member of Who Dat Nation.
Lofton was a 2008 second round pick for the Falcons out of Oklahoma University and made an instant impact where he became the starting middle linebacker.
While with the Falcons, Lofton registered 352 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 interceptions and 7 forced fumbles. Although considered a defensive centerpiece in Atlanta he was allowed to test the waters of free agency when the Falcons didn’t want to pay Lofton a huge sum to stay.
The Saints welcomed Lofton to the organization and signed him to a 5-year, $33.5 million deal. The move was viewed as a two fold plan, both hinging on linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Vilma was facing discipline from the NFL in regards to the bounty scandal that rocked the organization and was eventually suspended for the entire season. The resulting appeals and eventual vacation of that suspension allowed Vilma to remain on the roster though.
Even after returning, the Saints still enacted the second part of the plan that became obvious as the season went along. This was that the Saints were obviously grooming Lofton to replace Vilma regardless of his suspension or not.
Nicknamed “the Drew Brees of the defense”, Vilma had seen a regression the past several seasons due to a knee injury and the Saints were needing a playmaker at middle linebacker. Although Vilma played after coming of the Physically Unable to Perform list, it was at weakside linebacker.
His status doesn’t look good with the Saints salary cap being tight for 2013 and Vilma is due to make $6.5 million this upcoming season. Also, linebacker David Hawthorne has expressed his desire to play the weakside position versus strongside where he is at now.
Even amongst all the questions, disappointing season, and impending shakeups on the defense, Lofton had this to say about coming to the Saints,
“I will say this organization has met my expectation and exceeded it. Everyone always asks if I regret or second guess my decision. That thought has never crossed my mind. I know I said last night that our record doesn’t indicate what we have as a team and the guys in this locker room and I’m looking forward to the future. I’m excited about that, I’m very happy with my decision and I love this organization and this team.”
A big statement from Lofton considering his former team he could have returned to is currently the #1 seed in the playoffs and is favored to be in the upcoming Super Bowl.
Ranking second on the team in tackles at 79, Lofton also has a sack and two fumble recoveries. Considering that he will likely engross himself in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme during the offseason, the next responsibility for Lofton will be official passing of the torch as the new leader of the Saints defense.