METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints continued their aggressive approach toward the 2020 season by acquiring linebacker Kwon Alexander from the San Francisco 49ers on Monday in exchange for veteran linebacker Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round draft pick, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Both linebackers are on the mend from injuries. Alexander missed the past three weeks with a high ankle sprain but returned to practice last week. Alonso, meanwhile, has not played yet this season after tearing his ACL in January. But he also returned to practice last month.
The 49ers signed Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract as a free agent from Tampa Bay last season. But the 26-year-old was limited last year by a torn pectoral before returning for their playoff run. This was a way for San Francisco to shed salary since they like their depth at the position; specifically second-year linebackder Dre Greenlaw, who has started in Alexander’s place whenever he has been injured.
The Saints, meanwhile, have one of the NFL’s best run defenses. But the athletic 6-foot-1, 227-pounder should help their pass coverage while playing alongside All-Pro Demario Davis. Both players are Mike/Will linebacker hybrids.
The Saints can easily afford Alexander’s deal for the rest of this season as he is due less than $1 million in base salary and per-game roster bonuses over their final nine games. However, they will have a decision to make next year before Alexander is due another $13.4 million in salary and bonuses. Only $2 million is guaranteed for injury-only. Alexander is due another $13.5 million in 2022, none of which is guaranteed.
The 49ers wound up paying Alexander about $26 million for his year and a half with the team, according to figures from ESPN’s Roster Management System. They will incur a dead money hit of just under $7 million for 2021 from the bonuses and guaranteed money that they have already paid to Alexander. But that still marks a savings from his scheduled 2021 cap hit of $16.5 million.
Alexander, who was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round out of LSU in 2015, made the Pro Bowl in 2017. He has started a total of 59 games in his career with 444 tackles, seven interceptions and eight forced fumbles.
Alonso, 30, is a former second-round draft pick who has now been traded four times in his eight-year career from Buffalo to Philadelphia to Miami to New Orleans to San Francisco. The 6-3, 239-pounder has started 67 career games with 588 tackles, 10 interceptions and seven forced fumbles.
Alonso is a versatile linebacker who joined the Saints in a trade just before the 2019 season and played well in a part-time role. He tore the ACL in his right knee during their playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings — the third time he had torn an ACL dating back to college (the right knee twice and the left knee once). Alonso is due $850,000 in remaining salary this season, plus some not-likely-to-be-earned bonuses.