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Saints sign LB Shanle to four-year extension

Moving to retain a key young defensive player who helped spur their resurgence in 2006, the New Orleans Saints on Friday night signed starting weakside linebacker Scott Shanle to a four-year contract extension.

The extension runs through the 2010 season. Without it, Shanle would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency March 2, and, given his play last season, he would have drawn interest from other suitors.

Financial details of the extension were not immediately available, but Shanle likely received a substantial boost after playing the 2006 season for a base salary of $721,600.

"Making sure Scott returned to our team was one of our priorities entering the offseason," general manager Mickey Loomis said. "He is a player who is an integral part of the group that we want to build around. This is a really positive way to get 2007 started."

A four-year veteran, Shanle entered the NFL as a seventh-round choice of the St. Louis Rams in 2003. When the former Nebraska standout was released by St. Louis, he was claimed by the Dallas Cowboys on waivers.

After spending the first three seasons of his career with the Cowboys, appearing in 37 games with 11 starts, Shanle was traded to New Orleans last August for a conditional draft choice.

In the revamped Saints defense, Shanle appeared in all 16 games, starting all but one. He registered 117 tackles, second most on the team, and led New Orleans in solo tackles with 77. Shanle also had four sacks, one pass defended and a forced fumble.

For his career, Shanle has 236 tackles, 6½ sacks and four passes defended.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.