Pete Werner will have to step his game up to hold on to his starting position in 2024

Pete Werner is a promising young linebacker for the New Orleans Saints but he will have to step things up next season if he wants to remain a starter.

Jacksonville Jaguars v New Orleans Saints
Jacksonville Jaguars v New Orleans Saints / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Pete Werner has developed into a nice starting linebacker for the New Orleans Saints since being drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Coming out of Ohio State, Werner played in 15 games as a rookie, starting eight. In those 15 games, he recorded 62 tackles with four for a loss. In year two, Werner took things to another level, starting 11 of the 12 games he played, recording 80 tackles with three for a loss.

His emergence was exciting for Saints fans, as he made up a quality duo with Pro-Bowl linebacker Demario Davis. However, Werner’s play took a slight step back in 2023. Playing and starting in 16 games, Pete Werner finished the year with 93 tackles, four for a loss, and half a sack. However, he didn’t flash the way he did the season before, and he also struggled in coverage, giving up 450 receiving yards when targeted— more than his first two seasons combined (134 in 2021 and 212 in 2022).

Now, as Werner works to bounce back, he’ll have extra motivation, as competition has been added to the linebacker room. The Saints’ first signing of free agency was former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay. On Tuesday, when head coach Dennis Allen spoke with the media at league meetings, Allen explained that Gay was brought in to compete for a starting job.

Everyone assumes that Demario Davis, who’s still playing elite football at 35, is locked in to his starting position. So that means Werner and Gay will be fighting for the job to play alongside Davis in the starting lineup.

Willie Gay and Pete Werner will compete for starting linebacker spot

Willie Gay signed a one-year deal, but if things go well, he could end up remaining in New Orleans for a while, especially with Demario Davis nearing the end of his career. He joins the Saints after four years in Kansas City where he played in 57 games, starting 47. In those games, Gay recorded 233 tackles, 17 for a loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions.

While Gay was good during his time with the Chiefs, he was apart of a deep linebacker group, so he didn't even play 70% of the team’s defensive snaps. Now, he’s ready to prove that he’s a full-time linebacker. He’ll have to beat out Werner to make that happen.