Kwon Alexander at the snap

Kwon Alexander trade analysis: Saints get much needed linebacker upgrade

Home » NFL » Kwon Alexander trade analysis: Saints get much needed linebacker upgrade

Per Adam Schefter on Twitter, the San Francisco 49ers have traded linebacker Kwon Alexander to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a 5th round draft pick and linebacker Kiko Alonso.

However, the real purpose for the trade and the motivation behind it is the salary cap. Prior to this trade, the 49ers only had $200,000 in cap space. They could not even afford to promote Kevin White to the active roster, thus Dante Pettis was returning, and fumbling, kickoffs.

Trade Breakdown

The Saints receive from the 49ers:

  • Linebacker Kwon Alexander.

The 49ers receive from the Saints:

  • Linebacker Kiko Alonso.
  • A conditional 5th round pick.

49ers Evaluation

As mentioned before, the main motivation for this trade was the salary cap. The 49ers roster is currently in cap hell. The 49ers currently have approximately $50 million in cap room on injured reserve, the most in the entire NFL. With the Niners currently sat at 4-4, but with a shot at the 7th seed (and above), Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch believe that this season is still worth saving.


This trade frees up $5.45 million for the 49ers this season and $13.4 million in cap space for 2021.

Off the field, Kwon Alexander was a key member of the 49ers locker room. Alexander enjoyed great rapport with the rest of the 49ers defence, becoming a pioneer of the ‘Hot Boyzz’ movement in 2019. However, after tearing his pectoral on Halloween of 2019 against the Cardinals, Alexander was not the same player.

On the field, Alexander relied on his athleticism and explosiveness to compensate for his poor tackling and lack of gap discipline. Alexander could cover tight-ends and rally to the ball in a flash, however, injury is seemingly taking its toll on the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Per PFF, Alexander ranked 65th in run defence out of 79 linebackers. Alexander’s decline in play coupled with the ascension of 2019 5th round pick Dre Greenlaw, made this decision easy for the 49ers from a pragmatic point of view.

How much of an impact Kiko Alonso will have on the 49ers is uncertain. If the linebacking corps suffers great injury then Alonso could see some snaps. Although, I would not expect Alonso to take meaningful snaps for the 49ers anytime soon.

Saints Evaluation

This move adds some much-needed athleticism to the Saints defence. Demario Davis has been a lone wolf in the Saints linebacking corps, often holding up the entire position group on his own. As seen in San Francisco with Fred Warner, Alexander can be a nice compliment to a true mike-linebacker.


The Saints defence has now received a jolt in the form of a sideline-to-sideline linebacker. While Davis and Alexander aren’t exactly Devin White and Lavonte David, they will make life more difficult for the Buccs in the quest for the NFC South.


The 49ers have supposedly been shopping Kwon Alexander for a while now. While Alexander is a good player, he is more of a luxury than a necessity. On a defence such as the 2019 49ers, which was built on cheap rookie and ‘prove-it’ deals, Alexander is an asset you can afford. This time around for SF? Not so much.

The value of this trade is even. The 49ers dump non-integral salary that was suffocating their season, while the Saints gain a quality starter as they attempt to snatch the NFC South away from the Buccaneers. Both sides will be happy that this deal could go through ahead of the deadline.

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