The New Orleans Saints are losing a key role player in their defensive front.
NFL’s Ian Rapoport tweeted out the unfortunate news that Saints defensive end Noah Spence suffered an ACL tear recently, sidelining him for what will likely be the entirety of the 2020 NFL season.
The #Saints signed LB Anthony Chickillo today and placed pass-rusher Noah Spence on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list because he tore his ACL preparing for training camp. This injury would have occurred at OTAs, but obviously no OTAs this year.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 26, 2020
The news comes just over two months since the Saints announced the re-signing of Spence after picking him up on waivers last season after the Washington Redskins released Spence in his first season with the team.
Spence only played four total games for the Saints, including the NFC Wildcard 26-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. However, general manager Mickey Loomis liked what he saw in Spence, re-signing the former Ohio State Buckeye to a one-year, $910,000 contract.
What it Means for Spence
This is Spence’s second significant injury after missing half the 2017 season with a shoulder issue, but it’s not necessarily an injury that is a sign of re-occuring injury issues.
Before the injury in 2017, Spence showed promise as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being drafted as the 39th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Spence totaled 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in just three starts for the Bucs, playing in all 16 games of the 2016 season. However, after continuing to produce with another forced fumble and sack in three starts in 2017, Spence’s shoulder injury sidelined him.
Since, Spence has not started for the Bucs, Redskins or Saints in his time with those respective teams, but has consistently been looked at as a player who can still produce in limited chances.
What it Means for the Saints
Because the injury happened outside of New Orleans’ facilities, the Saints were able to place Spence on the non-football injury/reserve list. This means a couple of things.
For one, the recent signing of Anthony Chickillo from the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t require any cuts. Since Spence is on the non-football list, he will not count towards the Saints’ current 90-player roster and Chickillo is able to come into New Orleans without forcing any immediate cuts.
The second aspect of this is that Spence will be eligible to receive treatment from the Saints and NFL staff when the Saints and other respective NFL teams return after it is deemed safe to do so.
While it was unlikely for Spence to crack into a starting group that boasts the likes of defensive ends Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport as well as defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and Malcom Brown, Spence is the type of depth required to turn a strong front-seven into one of the league’s best.
The Saints know this better than most and have invested consistently to ensure they have a deep, competitive defensive front. The arrival of Chickillo definitely helps the linebacker group, but the Saints will now have to look elsewhere to find the players that will slide in behind Jordan and Davenport.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the NFL for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Follow and reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier.