The trade: The San Francisco 49ers sent Alexander to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for LB Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft.
The skinny: The middle of New Orleans’ defense has been an area of weakness this season, especially at critical times. On third down, the Saints have allowed the second-most yards per play (7.0) and fourth-highest passer rating (74.4). For New Orleans, first downs yielded on passes to the middle of the field — where Alexander will roam — are up about three per game from the first eight weeks of last season (18 in 2020, 15.2 in 2019). Alexander hasn’t played since Week 5 due to an ankle injury; however, PFF still credits him with 10 defensive stops — only one fewer than Saints star Demario Davis. Trading Alexander for Alonso actually nets the Saints a small cap gain for the season.
The bottom line: If Alexander can return to good health — which, obviously, the Saints think he can — he gives this defense a very nice running mate for Davis on the second level. Both linebackers are versatile, sideline-to-sideline playmakers. And with Drew Brees not getting any younger, the Saints are clearly all in on this season. On the other hand, the Niners have to be happy getting out from under Alexander’s contract (a four-year, $54 million deal he signed in March of 2019). Alexander’s only started 13 of 24 regular-season games since inking the deal, and second-year linebacker Dre Greenlaw has already proven to be a viable alternative. Meanwhile, Alonso’s off the books after this season.
THE GRADES — Saints: B+ | 49ers: A-