Film Study: 2016 New Orleans Saints Free Agents

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Nov 15, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) is introduced to the crowd prior to the start of a game between the St. Louis Rams and the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) is introduced to the crowd prior to the start of a game between the St. Louis Rams and the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /
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Though they were badly strapped for cash at the start of free agency, the New Orleans Saints wasted no time in adding four experienced, veteran free agents to their defense.

New Orleans struggled to defender the run and the pass last year thanks to a unit built mostly of rookies.  Can defensive coordinator put the new assets to use quickly, with the window for Drew Brees‘ high level of play narrowing daily?  Let’s dive into who the Saints signed, and see what each of them brings to the table.

Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports /

Nate Stupar, linebacker

The second player the Saints were connected to in free agency was fifth-year veteran Nathan Stupar, a former Oakland Raiders draft pick and college teammate of special-teams standout Michael Mauti.  Stupar has bounced around from one team to another before landing with the Atlanta Falcons as a reserve linebacker and special-teams stud, making the second-most tackles on punts and kickoffs coverage units in his two years there.

The Falcons opted not to tag Stupar as a restricted free agent after the 2015 season, instead offering a long-term contract.  New Orleans made a better offer (three years, $5-million), which made Stupar a Saint.  The team can save $1-million 2017 salary cap space and $1.75-million in 2018 if Stupar is released.

Following the release of two-year Special Teams Captain Ramon Humber, it seems likely Stupar will be around for a while.  He is a descent athlete but the strength in his game really lies in his intelligence and ability to see the big picture on a play-by-play basis.  Stupar’s lack of athletic upside and age (he just turned 28) have kept him from securing a starting job in Atlanta, Jacksonville, San Francisco, or Oakland.  Fortunately for New Orleans, the lack of solid veterans in the linebacker corps makes Stupar a perfect fit.

More from Saints Free Agency

Stupar rigorously defends his gap discipline playing as an outside linebacker and shows great awareness of where his fellow defenders are in zone coverage.  One area in which he excels is working through blocks and sinking his hips to win the leverage battle, especially against lanky offensive tackles.  He arguably outplayed younger players ahead of him on Atlanta’s depth chart, and the decision to let him walk to a divisional rival has caught the ire of many Falcons fans.

The vision for Stupar in New Orleans seems to be a backup at strong side linebacker.  Now that young guns Hau’oli Kikaha and Kasim Edebali (who combined for nine sacks and six tackles for loss last year) are moving to defensive end, Stupar can be a quality backup for Stephone Anthony at the strong side while possibly filling in when the defense goes to nickel packages.  Stupar has experience at every linebacker spot and could also back up James Laurinaitis in the middle.

If he can handle those responsibilities well and continue to produce as a special-teams ace (possibly earning the Captain nomination), Stupar will be well-worth the $1.66-million average-per-year the Saints are paying him.

Next: What about James Laurinaitis?

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