Linebacker David Hawthorne has agreed to a deal with the Saints, ending his four-year run with the Seahawks, the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2008.
The Saints announced the five-year deal on Tuesday. Financial terms were not disclosed.
"Thanks for the love Seahawks fans. The times I had in Seattle were truly amazing. The 12th man is real and will always have my respect!!!" Hawthorne tweeted Tuesday.
Hawthorne, 26, became a starter in 2009 and led the Seahawks in tackles in each of the past three seasons. Last season he had 115 tackles and tied a career-high with three interceptions, including one he returned 77 yards for a touchdown – all while playing through a knee injury that forced him to miss the season opener.
ESPN's John Clayton told 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday that the Seahawks were still talking with Hawthorne's agent. Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com reports that the Seahawks had offered Hawthorne a two-year deal before rescinding it Tuesday afternoon.
The Saints have stocked up on linebackers in recent weeks. New Orleans has already signed Chris Chamberlain and Curtis Lofton, apparently bracing for the possibility of the NFL suspending some of their own linebackers for their roles in the team's bounty scandal.
Hawthorne, Lofton and Stephen Tulloch hit free agency as the top available middle linebackers, but each found a weaker market than they had expected. Hawthorne visited with the Saints last month and was scheduled to meet with the Lions before Detroit re-signed Tulloch.
Hawthorne becomes the Seahawks' fifth unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere, joining Anthony Hargrove (Packers), John Carlson (Vikings), Charlie Whitehurst (Chargers) and Atari Bigby (Chargers). In New Orleans, Hawthorne will reunite with former Seahawks linebacker Will Herring, who signed with the Saints prior to last season.
K.J. Wright is the only starting linebacker the Seahawks have under contract for 2012. Leroy Hill, who started all 16 games in 2011, is a free agent.