James Laurinaitis to Saints: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2016

St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) takes up his position during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
Associated Press

The Los Angeles Rams parted ways with linebacker James Laurinaitis in February, but he is far from done despite experiencing a rough 2015 season. 

The New Orleans Saints announced they have agreed to a three-year contract with the 29-year-old.

NFL Network's Rand Getlin initially reported the move on Wednesday. ESPN's Adam Schefter confirmed the report. 

Laurinaitis took to Twitter to voice his excitement:

Laurinaitis burst on the scene with over 100 tackles in three of his first four seasons with the Rams, but the veteran's production steadily declined before Los Angeles informed him of his release. 

"Once you get to Year 8, you really allow yourself to kind of sit back and be like, 'You know what, I’m not going to be surprised by anything,'" Laurinaitis said, per ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner. "I have seen a lot of things and seen a lot of people go. I have been grateful to have seven years with the same team. That’s rare in and of itself. I’m not bitter about that."

James Laurinaitis Stats by Season
SeasonSolo TacklesSacksInterceptionsForced Fumbles
Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com

But despite the statistical backslide, Laurinaitis has been one of the NFL's most durable players since he entered the league in 2009. Over the course of his first seven seasons, the Ohio State product hasn't missed a single game because of injury.

In fact, ever since the Rams selected Laurinaitis in the second round of the 2009 draft, the Buckeye-bred linebacker has started every single game he's appeared in.   

However, it's hard to ignore how his effectiveness has waned. Laurinaitis clearly lost a step last season—as his numbers indicate—and he may simply be better suited as an early-down linebacker who keys in on stopping the run at this stage in his career. 

But for a team that last season ranked 31st in opponents' average rushing yards (129.8), Laurinaitis could be the sort of stabilizer that the Saints desperately need on the field and in the locker room. 

Inside linebacker Stephone Anthony impressed with 112 total tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception during his rookie season, but the Saints were among the league's most undisciplined defenses week after week during an inconsistent 2015 season. 

The Saints may need to shuffle some pieces around with Laurinaitis and Anthony both in tow, but head coach Sean Payton should be pleased that he has two steady presences holding down the middle of his defense. 

And now that he has some extra motivation as a result of his release from the Rams, Laurinaitis could prove to be a solid addition to New Orleans' linebacker corps so long as he's not required to operate as a three-down middle linebacker.