New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton announced on Monday morning that his team had acquired former Pro Bowl linebacker Kwon Alexander in exchange for a fifth-round pick and veteran linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Both of the players involved in the deal are currently convalescing on their respective team’s injured reserve lists, but the trade is still significant. Alexander is expected to make his return to game action from an ankle sprain in Week 10, while Alonso, who hasn’t played yet this season, recently returned to practice as well.
The 49ers had signed Alexander to a big contract before the 2019 season, but after missing most of his time with the team due to a torn pec last year and an ankle sprain this year, he never really made an impression, which allowed second-year man Dre Greenlaw to slide into his spot and essentially steal his job with some very dynamic and promising play.
Even with San Francisco’s litany of injuries on the defensive side this year, they clearly felt that their depth at the middle linebacker position was good enough to make Alexander expendable. Though they did pay the LSU product $26 million for just a year and a half of work, the 49ers will save nearly $17 million on his cap hit for 2021 after dealing him away.
Meanwhile, the Saints welcome the multi-talented Alexander to a defense that has been playing well and overachieving significantly this season. They’re middle of the pack against the pass (17th) but they’ve been dominant in stifling their opponent’s ground games, sitting as the NFL’s third best unit against the run.
Alexander should fit in perfectly in the heart of New Orleans’ defense alongside downhill thumper Demario Davis. Davis is a great run-stopper, but he’s recently turned himself into an excellent all-around linebacker, boosting his coverage credentials enough to earn him All-Pro honors last season.
Now they’ve added another all-around linebacker to supplement Davis in Alexander. While Davis is still more impressive in run defense from his Mike position, Alexander, who’s always been a better cover guy, slots in next to him perfectly. Though Payton said he thought Alexander was bringing a lot more to the table than just coverage acumen.
“No, I wouldn’t just say that,” said Payton when asked if Alexander’s coverage was the most impressive thing about his game. “He’s very good in coverage, but he’s also very good in defending the run game. He does a lot of things well. He’s smart, he’s instinctive, he’s a run-and-hit player that has very good speed and instincts.”
Alexander, now in his sixth year in the NFL, has missed 21 games over his past three campaigns, though when he does play he’s known as one of the better middle linebackers in the game. His addition should definitely make this NFC South race—in which the Saints are currently underdogs with 2.15 odds to win the division on 888sport—with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers even more interesting than it already is.
Over 59 career games, the 26-year-old Alexander has amassed 444 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, and seven picks.