Saints found building block in Stephone Anthony, need more like him

A position-by-position look at where the New Orleans Saints stand heading into the 2016 offseason -- counting down from No. 13 to No. 1 in order of need for upgrades or replacements. At No. 9 is inside linebacker.

Current depth chart:

Stephone Anthony. Age 23, signed through 2018. 2016 salary and bonuses: $786,442. 2016 salary-cap number: $1.76 million.

Michael Mauti. Age 26, signed through 2016. 2016 salary and bonuses: $675,000. 2016 salary-cap number: $675,000.


The Saints run a 4-3 defense, so they really only use one inside linebacker. And they appear to have found a good one in Anthony, whom they drafted with the 31st pick in Round 1 last year.

Anthony wasn’t perfect, especially in pass coverage. But he showed a great combination of athleticism, intelligence, poise and potential while starting every game as the middle linebacker and signal-caller for New Orleans’ defense. He was credited by the NFL with 112 tackles (tied for 20th in the league). And the Saints credited him with 142 tackles, which broke Rickey Jackson’s franchise record for a rookie.

Anthony should only get better, so this appears to be one of a very few positions on defense where the Saints have found a building block for the present and the future.

So why not rank this even lower on the list? Two reasons. For one, the Saints have extremely little depth behind Anthony after releasing veterans David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber on Monday.

Secondly, it’s a defensive position -- and the Saints should consider all options for making their defense better, even if it means moving an inside linebacker like Alabama’s first-round draft prospect Reggie Ragland to weakside linebacker.

The Saints so badly need to fix their defense that I wouldn’t argue with ranking all six defensive positions among their top six needs.

Previous rankings:

No. 13: Running back

No. 12: Quarterback

No. 11: Offensive tackle

No. 10: Specialists