Saints give LB Simmons three-year deal
New Orleans Saints
The Cincinnati Bengals, who chose Simmons as a No. 1 draft pick in 1998, had released him late last month, even though he had been one of their most dependable and versatile linebackers, averaging 116 tackles per season since 2001.
Simmons (6-3, 240 pounds) was limited to 11 games in 2006 because of a neck strain, but he still had 78 tackles (41 solo) and two interceptions. He had missed only one game from 2001-2005.
Simmons, 31, had two seasons remaining on his contract in Cincinnati, at base salaries of $3.3 million for 2007 and $3.7 million for 2008, when he was cut. The Bengals' brass felt those salaries were exorbitant for a veteran they considered to be in decline, and the team wanted to move younger players into the position.
But the versatile Simmons, who has started at every position in a 4-3 front at various times during his career, should be a good fit for a New Orleans team that stunned the NFL by winning its division in 2006. The Saints want to build on last season's resurgence and, if Simmons is healthy, he can fill a lot of roles and add another solid locker room presence.
Simmons had 102 stops in 2005, along with four forced fumbles, four sacks and a pair of interceptions. In 2004, he posted 132 stops, a sack, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and two interceptions.
Over his career in Cincinnati, Simmons finished among the top two tacklers on the defense in every full season he played. He has appeared in 121 games, with 118 starts since being selected 17th overall in 1998 out of North Carolina. Simmons has 11 interceptions in his career, including two returned for touchdowns, and 23 sacks. He has also recovered eight fumbles.
The decision to release Simmons, which was hardly unanimous among Bengals executives and coaches, left Cincinnati with no linebackers on its current roster with more than three seasons of NFL experience.
"This was not an easy decision to make," said coach Marvin Lewis. "Brian has been a fine player on the field, and he has been a great example to all of our players as a team leader and citizen. But a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency, this allows us to best position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2007."
New Orleans wasted little time contacting Simmons and arranging a visit. He had other visits scheduled, but canceled those after his meeting in New Orleans.
The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report.
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