Boca Raton, Fla. – New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said that the team added leadership, talent and football intelligence by agreeing to terms with free agent linebacker James Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis, who agreed to terms on a three-year deal, started all 112 games he played in for the Rams and in seven seasons, set a franchise record with 1,015 tackles. He also posted 16.5 sacks, 10 interceptions, 36 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. Since 2009 he's the only NFL player with 15 or more sacks and 10 or more interceptions, and only four linebackers have topped his 10 interceptions.
"James has been a good linebacker for the St. Louis, now the Los Angeles, Rams," Loomis said Tuesday. "We're excited to have him, we're excited about the football intelligence that he has, the instincts, the leadership skills. It'll be fun to have him in the building.
"I think we've got some good leadership on our defense, but we've also got a lot of young guys. I think any time you can add a guy with the skill set that he has, the football intelligence, that's a good thing."
The Saints also added free agent linebacker Nate Stupar, whose last team was Atlanta.
Stupar, a three-year veteran, has appeared in 43 games, with three starts. He has career totals of 30 tackles, one sack, two passes defensed, one fumble recovery (returned for a touchdown) and 28 special teams tackles.
"Nate is another player that we coveted," Loomis said. "He's going to come in, he's going to give us depth. He's a smart player, another guy with high football intelligence, real good on special teams, he'll be able to back up a number of positions.
"I think with him and Mike Mauti (who was re-signed) and James, we're adding to a position that we didn't have a lot of depth in as we entered free agency. We're kind of excited about that."
However, Loomis said, adding Laurinaits and Stupar doesn't necessarily affect how the Saints will approach the upcoming NFL Draft.
"Really, we can speculate and we can have these plans and we can plug guys in – and we have the draft to come, which is a really important element here – but you don't really know until you get into training camp and you get into the early part of the season and see how it all meshes together," he said. "But I like our locker room.
"We liked our locker room last year, that was one of the things that we wanted to focus on a year ago. I think we've got a good locker room and I think the guys that we're adding enhance that.
"Any time you go through free agency, ultimately your goal is to get yourself to the point where you just can take the best player (in the draft), regardless of position. Obviously, we have some things that we still need to fill – some musts, some needs, some wants. But if we can get to the point where, in that first round in particular, we can just draft the best player on our board, the best player available, that's ideally what you want."
Also, Loomis said that the Saints will continue to look to add to the guard position. But the team's decision to release six-time Pro Bowl right guard Jahri Evans, one of the most decorated offensive linemen in franchise history, did not put it in desperation mode.
"We talked about that position," he said. "We want to add to our depth. We did sign Senio (Kelemete) to a multiyear contract, so that was good to get done; we've got Tim (Lelito) in the building, who we like a lot; Andrus (Peat) has played some guard for us.
"So we've got some versatility with the guys we've got, but I think we still would like to add to that interior line group if we can."
Kelemete started five games last season, mostly subbing for an injured Evans, though he started the season finale at left tackle. Lelito opened last season as the starter at left guard, and made 13 starts. And Peat, the Saints' first-round draft pick last season, started eight games as a rookie, including several at left guard.