This is going to be tough. The New Orleans Saints have a lot of reasons to work on a new deal with Kwon Alexander. He’s been everything they hoped to find in trading for him a couple years back, providing much-needed playmaking ability, NFL experience, and a sparkplug of energy in the lineup next to Demario Davis. He’s been a big part of their success on defense. You’d hope the team can work something out, but he’s earned a nice payday and should continue to start in the NFL. That may not be something the Saints can accommodate.
Alexander is a free agent coming off of a really strong year. And the Saints have an up-and-comer behind him on the depth chart in 2021 draft pick Pete Werner, who himself played well enough to earn more minutes. Unless Dennis Allen is about to dramatically shift his tendencies and take a defensive back (likely nickel C.J. Gardner-Johnson) off the field for most of their snaps to field a third linebacker, letting Alexander walk so Werner can step up makes the most sense. With Zack Baun unable to crack the rotation, they can’t afford to have two high draft picks as backups, especially when Werner looked so impressive as a rookie.
So where could Alexander go in free agency? Almost every team in the league should be happy to sign him as a 27-year-old in his athletic prime, coming off of a great season. But I’ve narrowed down the list to four teams that feel like the most-likely landing spots for him if he’s on his way out in New Orleans:
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Quarterback is obviously the biggest hole on Denver’s roster, but they could use an upgrade at linebacker, too. And they got a firsthand look at how dominant Alexander can be in his big game against their short-handed offense in 2020. He’d add a lot of NFL experience to a weak area of their depth chart, and his athleticism in defending the short and middle areas of the field would compliment a strong secondary patrolling the further reaches. They can pay him well with more than $31.7 million in effective cap space.
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Aaron Glenn got a firsthand look at Alexander’s impact with the Saints in 2020, and now that he’s calling his own defense he could look to team up with the linebacker again. Detroit doesn’t have anyone with Alexander’s combination of experience and athletic upside, and he could be a big get for them. Their defense needs help at every level, and adding a dynamic linebacker like him to the mix can help put out multiple fires during the rebuild.
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Doesn’t this feel like a Bill Belichick special? Signing a good-but-not-great player from another team and putting them in a position to maximize their talents, then getting all the credit for discovering them or something? His Patriots defense was fine last season, but they could use a better presence at linebacker, and Alexander may fit the bill. New England doesn’t have as much cap space as other teams after last offseason’s spending spree, but they could make a competitive offer for Alexander and sell him on working with the greatest coach of all time.
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Alexander’s old defensive coordinator with the 49ers is now the Jets head coach, and he’s busy rebuilding a defense that, like Detroit, could use a lot of help. He knows Alexander and his skills set exceptionally well and might be up for a reunion; if not for injuries, Alexander may have continued starting for Robert Saleh in San Francisco. If the Jets do have one unit to hang their hats on, it’s their defensive line, and Alexander would really benefit from playing behind those big people-movers up front. Plus, the Jets rank among NFL leaders in cap space and can pay him whatever he wants.