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Monday, April 9, 2012
Saints could have more LB movement

By Pat Yasinskas

The New Orleans Saints have added a lot at linebacker this offseason.

They’ve signed free agents Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain. Now, they could be on the verge of losing one of their holdovers. Jonathan Casillas reportedly is visiting the Tennessee Titans as a restricted free agent Monday. The market for restricted free agents has been a very soft one, but that could be changing as teams get things in order before the draft. A player like Casillas is a logical target because he’s carrying the low tender ($1.26 million) and signing him would not require any draft-pick compensation because Casillas came into the league undrafted.

He’s also a young player with some upside. Although the Saints like Casillas’ athleticism and upside, it might be difficult to keep him, even though they have the right of first refusal on any contract offer Casillas receives. The Saints are barely under the salary cap and they’re also trying to find a way to get quarterback Drew Brees signed to a new deal that will fit under the cap. If Tennessee offers Casillas decent money, the Saints may have to let him walk.

But they appear to be prepared for that. The Saints have added three free agents and they’re high on second-year pro Martez Wilson. They still have veteran Scott Shanle as a returning starter and veteran backup Will Herring remains on the roster. There’s uncertainty about veteran middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma. He’s been named by the NFL as a player involved in the Saints’ bounty program and could face a suspension.

But the Saints have done enough with linebackers in free agency that they should be able to absorb any possible suspension for Vilma and should be able to go on if Casillas leaves.