The Saints took a big step to protect themselves in the event they lose their defensive captain to suspension, reaching an agreement Saturday with former Falcons free-agent MLB Curtis Lofton on a five-year contract.
With starting MLB Jonathan Vilma facing perhaps a long suspension by the league for his involvement in “Bountygate,” the Saints needed to pursue a backup plan, and Lofton filled the bill.
Lofton started all 16 games at middle linebacker for Atlanta last season, leading the team with 147 tackles and adding a sack and seven passes defensed. The 2008 second-round draft choice has started 63-of-64 games during his four-year NFL career. Lofton can also play other LB positions.
"Curtis is a versatile, hard-working player that has displayed a knack for being around the football, and more importantly, making plays on the ball," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said Saturday night in a release. "He has the ability to play all three linebacker positions and we feel that he's just entering the prime of his career. We think he can come to New Orleans and fit in well and provide us with a significant contribution to our defense."
The way we see it
This is an important move by Loomis. Vilma is likely facing a long suspension for his role in “Bountygate,” and he has been the leader of the Saints’ defense. So, getting a player of Lofton’s caliber greatly eases the pain when the inevitable happens.
Rated 38th on PFW’s list of the top 100 free agents this offseason, Lofton was arguably the best “Mike” linebacker still available in the free-agent market, along with the Redskins’ London Fletcher, who is 11 years older than Lofton. With Vilma turning 30 next month, the Saints now have a longtime replacement for him on the roster in case they decide to cut the cord with Vilma.
Besides Lofton's value to the Saints, his signing weakens the defense of a key NFC South rival.