Kaden Elliss is an underrated New Orleans Saints free agent who broke out in 2022 with career highs in defensive snaps played (632), quarterback pressure (20, including 8 sacks per Pro Football Focus chart), and tackles (45). along with a pair of fumbles.
The veteran linebacker has been a top special teams player for the Saints since they drafted him from Idaho in 2019, and now the former sixth-round pick is trying to establish himself as a starter — somewhere in the league.
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“I’d love to come back,” Elliss told The Spun’s Chris Rosvoglou. “They made it clear they wanted me back. It depends on the numbers and the scheme. We will cross this bridge when we get there.”
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That makes sense. When Elliss gets his hands on a competitive offer, he owes it to himself to accept it — this is his first shot at a life-changing NFL payday. And if the Saints don’t make drastic plan changes on most of their defensive snaps to field three or more linebackers (they overwhelmingly prefer to use nickel personnel with an extra defensive back instead), he has more options to head elsewhere on the field come.
So if another team is willing to pay more than New Orleans or give Elliss more snaps than he would see at the Saints, he’s gone. It’s a similar situation to that of Al-Quadin Muhammad, Vonn Bell and Sheldon Rankins in recent years. They were all edged out of the roster by a combination of other viable players in the position and stronger contract offers with other teams.
With Demario Davis and Pete Werner both expected to play the most snaps as linebackers for the Saints in 2023, Elliss doesn’t play a huge role. He won’t oust either of them in the fall. And New Orleans needs to see some backup linebackers recovering from injuries like Zack Baun and D’Marco Jackson. Those same injury histories are reason to invest in the position, but it’s hard to justify Davis and Elliss paying both starting-quality players when only one of them will be on the field at a time.
Hopefully it works out where Elliss can return. He played his part well and deserves more chances. Davis will likely be hanging up his boots in two or three years (he turned 34 in January) and patience could pay off at No. 55. At the same time, it’s hard to tell him to just be patient and wait his turn. Careers in the NFL can be so fleeting.