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Saints sign LB Lofton

The New Orleans Saints bolstered their defense on Saturday by signing middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to a five-year contract.

The 25-year-old Lofton, a second-round draft pick by Atlanta in 2008, had played the first four seasons of his career with the Falcons. He finished with career-high 170 tackles in 2011 and started all 16 games last season.

"Curtis is a versatile, hard-working player that has displayed a knack for being around the football, and more importantly, making plays on the ball," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. "He has the ability to play all three linebacker positions and we feel that he's just entering the prime of his career. We think he can come to New Orleans and fit in well and provide us with a significant contribution to our defense."

Lofton has four sacks, three interceptions and seven forced fumbles over his career.

The deal to sign Lofton could be insurance because the Saints may lose Jonathan Vilma to suspension. Vilma, a starting linebacker, could be suspended due to his role in the bounty program.