March 23, 2012

Saints Add ex-Rams LB Chamberlain as Dunbar Visits St. Louis

The Saints have reportedly signed free agent linebacker Chris Chamberlain to a three-year contract, their third free agent addition of the offseason.

Chamberlain, 26, 6'1, 230, is four years out of Tulsa and was a seventh round pick of the Rams in 2008.  He's spent four season with the Rams, emerging as a part-time starter the past two seasons.

Chamberlain played the last three seasons for new Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. He started 13 games for the Rams in 2011, collecting 81 tackles, but played in only 56% of defensive snaps.

At weakside linebacker, he collected 13 tackles total in games against the Saints in 2010 and 2011.  He has played in all but five possible games as pro, missing time in 2010 with a fractured toe.  He played through a hamstring injury last season

Chamberlain won the starting weakside job from free agent signee Ben Leber in week five of the season and held on.  Leber would be cut in December as the Rams' season tanked, and Chamberlain was a rare bright spot for the team.

Chamberlain collected 28 special teams tackles in 2009 and led the team in special teams tackles from 2008-2010.

A high school quarterback and safety, Chamberlain went on to collect a whopping 352 tackles in college, including 162 (101 solo) as a senior.  Virtually invisible in the leadup to the draft, he ran a 4.67s 40 at his Pro Day but blazed a 6.87s three-cone drill.

Teams didn't know whether to play him at linebacker, safety, or even fullback, where he moonlighted as a senior.  He was picked nine slots ahead of Saints WR Adrian Arrington in the middle of the seventh round, and both could end up starting in 2012.

Chamberlain's signing could signal the end for LB Scott Shanle, who is due $1.75 million in bonuses and salary in 2012, the last of his current contract.  Shanle has been a Saints' starter at outside linebacker, but was immortalized in footage when he was sleeping on Vernon Davis' game-winning touchdown catch with seconds left in last season's division playoff loss to the 49ers.

LB Will Herring, signed last year but quiet in 2011, could also be cut to save $1.1 million in cap space this year.

Backup linebackers Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Ramon Humber are unrestricted free agents.

Dunbar is in St. Louis right now visiting with the Rams.

Defensive team captain and signal caller MLB Jonathan Vilma is a Saint for now, though he is expecting news of his Bounty scandal suspension soon.  He could be cut to save $3.6 million against the cap in 2012.  While suspended, Vilma would not count against the salary cap.

UPDATE: Hawthorne's deal is a back-loaded, five year, $19 million deal with only $700,000 in base salary in 2012, plus a $3.8 million signing bonus.  His total cap value therefore is only $1.46 million.  The contract creeps up in value to 2016, when he will be 31 and his cap value will be $5.51 million, including the prorated portion of a $3 million bonus in 2013.

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