NEW ORLEANS -- San Francisco’s surplus of linebackers couldn’t have come at a better time for the New Orleans Saints.
Parys Haralson missed the 2012 season with a torn triceps muscle and fell out of the depth chart heading into this one after the 49ers filled the roster with younger, cheaper alternatives.
The Saints reportedly traded for Parys Haralson. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed as of Monday night, but for once, it appears the 49ers are helping the Saints instead of demoralizing them.
Will Smith is reportedly out for the season with a leg injury sustained in the first half of Sunday’s preseason win over Houston.
What hurts in losing Smith isn’t skill; it’s leadership and experience. Those vying to take his position, Haralson not included, have precious little experience.
Junior Galette and Martez Wilson, both young and athletic and full of upside, have both missed time this preseason with injuries. And neither have much experience to fall back on.
Rufus Johnson and Eric Martin are both rookies and haven’t played in a real NFL game. And Baraka Atkins hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2009, getting cut during preseason the past three seasons.
Haralson brings immediate skill and help. And he knows the 3-4 scheme, having been one of the 49ers main contributors prior to ‘12. According to Pro Football Reference, Haralson has 68 starts since 2006, recording 145 tackles and 21 ½ sacks in his seven seasons.
In 2011, his last full season before the injury, he finished as one of the better 3-4 outside linebackers. According to Pro Football Focus, a website that grades teams and players based on film breakdowns, NFL quarterbacks finished with a meager 68.2 QB rating when throwing towards Haralson. Quarterbacks, in fact, completed just 50 percent of their passes thrown his way.
And PFF has Haralson as the top-rated outside linebacker this preseason in his 51 snaps.
I said earlier that Smith's injury weakened and already weak position. The Saints certainly could have waited to see who hits the waivers after league-mandated cuts.
But even without knowing what San Francisco got in return, New Orleans did the best it could to put it in the best position for success.