The Saints will be without one of their starting linebackers down the stretch and into the playoffs, as the club announced they’ve placed A.J. Klein on injured reserve. In a corresponding move, New Orleans has signed tight end John Phillips.
Klein, 26, inked a three-year, $15MM with the Saints this offseason, staying in the NFC South after four seasons with the Panthers. While the New Orleans defense has experienced a remarkable turnaround in 2017, Klein hasn’t necessarily been a large part of that effort despite playing roughly three quarters of the club’s defensive snaps. The Saints are still just 23rd in rush defense DVOA, while Klein himself has graded as only the No. 82 linebacker among 92 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.
While the loss of Klein will certainly lead to adjustments along the Saints’ front seven, the team does possess an ample amount of linebacker depth. Veterans such as Manti Te’o, Gerald Hodges, and the recently-signed Jonathan Freeny are all candidates to join the starting lineup opposite Craig Robertson.
Phillips, meanwhile, is now back in New Orleans after appearing in eight games for the club a season ago. An effective blocker but not much of an offensive weapon, the 30-year-old Phillips was with the Saints during training camp before being waived off injured reserve in September.
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