BOCA RATON, Fla. — It’s become clear one of the goals for the Saints this offseason was to improve the depth at linebacker.
After adding Nate Stupar and James Laurinaitis earlier this month, Saints coach Sean Payton said during a WWL radio interview the team is also adding someone named “Robertson” at linebacker. The Advocate was told that Robertson is former Cleveland Browns linebacker Craig Robertson.
Another source said the deal is being “worked on” and is not yet finalized.
Neither Laurinaitis or Robertson have posted as official moves on the NFL’s transaction wire.
“When you’ve got Dannell Ellerbe, and you’ve got (Stephone Anthony), and you’ve got a guy like James, and then we add Stupar, and then we add Robertson, those are two younger players that we’ve seen real good tape in the kicking game,” Payton said. “We’ve also seen them play in the base and in the sub. … In the last week, all of a sudden, for us to be able to sign three linebackers to come into our program and compete with the guys that are currently there.”
Robertson spent the past four years with the Cleveland Browns serving as an inside linebacker in their 3-4 defense. He recorded 59 tackles over 12 games last season.
The Saints struggled with depth last season at the linebacker position after weakside linebacker Ellerbe and strongside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha suffered injuries. The team was forced to turn to street free agents midway through the season just to field a team.
By adding depth, New Orleans will create competition at the various linebacker spots and have a deeper roster at the position. And as Payton noted, both Robertson and Stupar have the ability to serve on special teams.
In Laurinaitis, the Saints have a player who should become a starter and potentially take over at middle linebacker. If he claims that spot, Anthony, who started in the middle last season, could move over to the strong side.
For now, if the Robertson deal is closed, it appears he will compete for a reserve role and could fill in at middle linebacker and possibly at weakside linebacker.
This doesn’t mean the Saints are done adding at the position. When asked about the needs of the team during his interview, Payton said New Orleans is still looking for defensive tackles, defensive ends and “possibly linebacker.”
After the way the team struggled with depth last season, it’s better to have too many than not enough.