The New Orleans Saints waived linebacker Martez Wilson on Tuesday to make room for rookie quarterback Ryan Griffin on their 53-man roster. The move isn’t shocking, since Wilson had been phased out of the Saints’ defense in recent weeks. But it’s a pretty stunning end for a career that began with so much promise.
The Saints drafted the athletic 6-foot-4, 252-pounder out of Illinois in the third round in 2011. But he was never able to find a consistent role on the defense while switching positions and defensive coordinators every year.
It seemed like Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme would be the best fit yet for Wilson, who seemed ideally suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 with his size and athleticism. But an elbow injury that wiped out his entire preseason didn’t help his development. And then the Saints have rarely lined up in their base 3-4 package this season, usually preferring a four-man front with five defensive backs. Wilson’s snaps were limited all season until he was declared as a healthy inactive in Week 6.
Wilson had one sack and four tackles this season. In his three-year career, he had a total of five sacks, 33 tackles and a forced fumble.
Chances are he’ll get picked up somewhere else around the league, since athletes of his caliber aren’t easy to find.
Wilson ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any linebacker at the 2011 scouting combine (4.49 seconds). And his former Illinois coach and former defensive coordinator Ron Zook once said, “Probably, other than [former Saints pass-rusher] Joe Johnson, he might be more of a pure athlete than anyone I coached with the Saints.”
The Saints tried Wilson at outside linebacker in coordinator Gregg Williams’ base 4-3 scheme in 2011, then defensive end in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 scheme in 2012. But Wilson never earned a consistent role in the rotation.