Hoping to bolster their shaky linebacker corps, the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday acquired fourth-year veteran Scott Shanle from the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a fourth-round choice in the 2007 draft.
Shanle, 26, appeared in 15 games for the Cowboys in 2005, starting seven contests at inside linebacker in the Dallas 3-4 alignment. He registered 50 tackles, 1½ sacks and two passes defensed. But he was rendered extraneous when the Cowboys added veteran Akin Ayodele in free agency this spring and chose Bobby Carpenter in the first round of the draft.
Those moves, plus the switch of longtime defensive end Greg Ellis to linebacker and the return of second-year veteran Kevin Burnett from 2005 knee surgery, provided the Cowboys one of the deepest units in the league. And while Shanle's name was not specifically cited, it has been rumored for the past week that the Cowboys might be willing to deal from their surplus at the linebacker position.
The Saints need help at linebacker, and it will not be surprising if Shanle challenges for a starting job by the start of the regular season. Even with a dramatically overhauled linebacker corps, the Saints have struggled to find defenders who can play "downhill" to the ball. It will be interesting to see where the New Orleans coaches use Shanle, who can probably play in the middle or on the strongside in the team's 4-3 front.
Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs was the Dallas linebackers coach the past three seasons and knows Shanle well.
New Orleans officials probably aren't done yet trying to address the shaky linebacker situation. It is believed the Saints are still seeking to add San Diego linebacker Donnie Edwards, who has fallen out of favor with the Chargers, in a trade. New Orleans reportedly offered a fourth-round pick for the 10-year veteran, but the Chargers are holding out for a first-day draft choice.
Shanle originally entered the NFL as a seventh-round choice of the St. Louis Rams in the 2003 draft. He played six game for the Rams as a rookie, was released, and claimed on waivers by Dallas in December of that year. In 2004, he was an important contributor to the Dallas special teams units and he became a starter in 2005 over the second half of the season.
The former Nebraska standout has 82 tackles, 1½ sacks and four passes defensed for his career. He has appeared in 36 games and started in 11 of them.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.