After nine years with Drew Brees' high-flying aerial attack as the face of the franchise, the New Orleans Saints are retooling their offense around the ground game.
On the same day the Saintstraded deep-threat wideoutKenny Stills to the Dolphins, they added to an already strong backfield by signing former Bills running back C.J. Spiller to a four-year, $18 million contract with $9 million guaranteed, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports, via a source involved in the deal.
New Orleans is a dream landing spot for Spiller, a complementary playmaker who excels in space but struggles in the trenches. Coach Sean Payton has gotten the best out of Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, who offer similar skill sets.
Of all the "satellite" backs Payton has had, Spiller is the most talented. When Chan Gailey schemed to get him the ball in space during a 1,703-yard 2012 season, Spiller's explosive playmaking ability jumped off the game film as much as any tailback in the league.
Within the past week, the Saints have added Spiller, re-signed tackle-breaking Mark Ingram and traded All-Pro tight endJimmy Graham for one of the league's premier run-blockers in center Max Unger.
Payton discovered last season that his offense worked best when he leaned on Ingram to open up the passing game for Brees. Now he can play matchups with the trio of Ingram, Spiller and Khiry Robinson behind a better run-blocking offensive line, forcing defenses to respect the ground attack while allowing Brees to be a more efficient passer.
It's similar to Payton's 2006 offense, with Ingram playing the role of Deuce McAllister between the tackles and Spiller mirroring Bush's role on the edges and in the passing game.
This is a team altering its identity for another run at a wide-open NFC South title. The Saints are not an organization in rebuilding mode.
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