This afternoon, Saints’ FA pick up James Laurinaitis was placed on the injured reserve list, ending his season.
It was reported that though James Laurinaitis was a gamer, a veteran who’d never missed a game in his career before coming to New Orleans, in his last year or so in St. Louis with the Rams he’d lost a step. Many questioned the signing of a less than great middle linebacker to run the defense.
Three seasons ago, the Saints let free agent Roman Harper go to Carolina and Malcolm Jenkins get away to Philadelphia. The leadership void that created on the defense was tremendous. Not only did the Saints not have a vocal leader, they also didn’t have a physical leader. Cam Jordan was just beginning to come into his own, but he’s not known to be a vocal leader. Linebacker Curtis Lofton was far too quiet, especially in the wake of former linebacker/leader Jonathan Vilma.
After 2 seasons of futility defensively, they knew they needed leaders on that side of the ball. Laurinaitis was the man to fill that bill. Stephone Anthony was a solid player with good upside, but didn’t come in with the reputation as a vocal leader and didn’t take over that role. Whether on the field or in the locker room, the Black and Gold needed a guy who wasn’t afraid of being the one to call shots and speak loudly.
Laurinaitis was the leader of some very solid Jeff Fisher defenses in St. Louis. The son of the WWE’s Road Warrior Animal, James Laurinaitis was an animal in his own right, playing every game of his 6 seasons in St. Louis. The Saints signed him on the hope that he still had some game and that he’d provide leadership.
While the leadership was there, unfortunately the game wasn’t. In 6 game appearances (4 starts), Laurinaitis only achieved 9 tackles, recovered one fumble and had one pass defensed. He was injured in the Atlanta game and played only sparingly against Kansas City and Seattle. His move to IR was as much an indictment of his performance this season as to open another roster spot.
The questions will come by spring: will Laurinaitis rehab and regain his St. Louis form; will the Saints part ways with him (they also resigned Roman Harper for veteran leadership, and now Cam Jordan and Kenny Vaccaro have stepped up and become leaders) – the dead money hit would be over 2 seasons and be under $2 million total in that time frame; or will the Who Dat’s keep him around to continue to try and mentor the younger players?
Time will tell – but it seems while it didn’t work out completely as planned for the Black and Gold, for the person Laurinaitis is and the potential of what could have been, this was not a major loss for the Black and Gold.