The NFL career of defensive lineman Nick Fairley could be over after he was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list by the New Orleans Saints due to a heart condition. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the announcement could put Fairley's NFL career in jeopardy. The Saints made the move after Fairley consulted different doctors regarding his heart condition, which was first flagged during his combine workout in 2011. The condition did not stop the Detroit Lions from taking him 13th overall that year.

Despite his condition, Fairley played six seasons, compiling 170 tackles and 20.5 sacks in 77 career games with the Lions, Los Angeles Rams and the Saints.

Last season, Fairley started all 16 games for the Saints, garnering 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks, both career bests. With Fairley sidelined, the Saints will lose a key piece to their defensive line as they try to compete in the NFC South. The Saints recently signed the 29-year-old Fairley to a four-year, $28 million deal in the offseason to be the anchor of their defensive line. Fairley earned an $8 million signing bonus from the deal and his base salary of $1 million will be fully guaranteed for 2017.

Third opinion needed in Fairley’s situation

Fairley missed the Saints’ organized team activities (OTA) after medical tests revealed his heart problem. Fairley approached two heart specialists but they had different opinions about his condition so a third opinion was needed, Saints coach Sean Payton said earlier this month.

"He's gotten two professional opinions," Payton said. "The first one was one that advised that he shouldn't play football again. The second opinion was a little different, and he's getting a third opinion.” Payton said the Saints have thoroughly guarded Fairley’s condition because his life could be at stake in this situation.

Next options for Saints

The Saints could explore the free-agent market and look for unsigned defensive linemen. Among them are Dan Williams, Glenn Dorsey, Jared Odrick, Jonathan Babineaux or Cullen Jenkins. Some of them are way past their prime but can temporarily fill the void left by Fairley. New Orleans also has the option of standing pat and utilize its current defensive corps composed of Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata, Tyeler Davison, Ashaad Mabry and Justin Zimmer.

However, this move could be a gamble, especially if one goes down with an injury. The third move for the Saints is to wait for the conclusion of the preseason and monitor the waiver wires for possible acquisition.