NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Saints and 49ers have agreed to a trade sending linebacker Kwon Alexander to New Orleans in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round draft choice.
Saints coach Sean Payton, who confirmed the trade on Monday, said the draft pick is conditional because it is tied to playing time. Alexander, who is coming off an ankle injury, will be competing for snaps at outside linebacker with Alex Anzelone, Payton said.
The 30-year-old Alonso has not played this season, which he began on the Saints’ physically unable to perform list as he rehabilitates an anterior crucial ligament tear that occurred during a playoff game against Minnesota last season.
Alexander played for LSU and was a fourth-round draft choice by Tampa Bay in 2015. He played four seasons with the Buccaneers before signing a four-year, $54 million free-agent contract with San Francisco last season.
“We’ve had a chance, obviously, to see this player in our division,” Payton said. “It’s adding another player that we think fits what we’re doing. It also gives us another athletic player at that position that can run.”
Payton said Alexander likely won’t be available for New Orleans’ next game Sunday night against Tampa Bay, but hopefully the week after against San Francisco.
The 6-foot-1, 227-pound Alexander has started 59 games in his career with seven interceptions, eight forced fumbles and 444 tackles.
“He does a lot of things well,” Payton said. “He’s smart. He’s instinctive. … He’s very good in coverage, but he’s also very good in defending the run game.”
While Alexander provided an emotional lift as a locker room leader, his impact on the field was much less.
He struggled at times his first season and went down with a torn pectoral muscle after eight games. He returned for the playoffs, but was only a part-time player after being passed up by rookie Dre Greenlaw.
San Francisco has now opted to go forward with Greenlaw and Fred Warner as its top two linebackers and will avoid paying the remainder of Alexander’s big salary. The Niners will save more than $8 million on the salary cap next season, but will be hit with a nearly $7 million dead money charge because of bonuses already paid to Alexander, according to the Over The Cap website.
“Kwon’s time with our team might not have been long, but it was very impactful,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “A tremendous teammate, his non-stop motor, ferocious play and selfless nature helped establish a standard for our locker room that will carry on. On behalf of the entire organization, I want to wish Kwon all the best and thank him for all of his contributions to our team.”
The 6-3, 239-pound Alonso was a second-round draft choice by Buffalo in 2013 and has now been traded four times, with stints in Philadelphia and Miami before joining New Orleans before last season.
Alonso has started 67 career games, and made nearly 600 tackles to go with 10 interceptions and seven forced fumbles.
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow in Santa Clara, California, contributed to this report.
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