Saints bolster backfield, bringing in ex-Bills running back C.J. Spiller on 4-year deal



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FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 file photo, Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller (28) returns a punt during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Orchard Park, N.Y. The New Orleans Saints and free agent running back C.J. Spiller agreed to a four-year contract on Friday, March 13, 2015, a move that bolstered a backfield which also includes Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert, File)


METAIRIE, Louisiana — The New Orleans Saints and free agent running back C.J. Spiller agreed to a four-year contract on Friday, a move that bolstered a backfield which also includes Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson.

Spiller, 27, has spent his first five NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills, showing the ability to pile up yards as both a ball carrier and receiver out of the backfield.

His best season came in 2012, when he rushed for 1,244 yards and six touchdowns to go with 459 yards and two TDs receiving. He followed that up with 933 yards rushing and 185 yards receiving in 2013, but played in only nine games last season because of a shoulder injury, finishing with 300 yards rushing and 125 yards receiving.

"Having the injury, that kind of hurt but made me a better person," Spiller said. "It put some things in perspective for me. It made me more mentally tough than I thought I was, but now I am back 100 percent and feel great. ... My best years are yet to come."

One reason for Spiller's optimism is Saints coach Sean Payton's scheme, which employs elements of the late Bill Walsh's "West Coast" offense, such as short passes to running backs in space.

"I've been following this offense very closely," Spiller said. "The way that they use their running backs in general is very intriguing. If you were in my position, you would be a fool not to visit or at least see how they could utilize your skill set, especially my type of skill set."

Financial terms were not released for Spiller's deal, part of a several roster moves made by New Orleans on Friday.

The Saints also traded receiver Kenny Stills to Miami for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round draft pick, and released defensive back Corey White, who was a fifth-round draft choice in 2012.

The arrival of Spiller, a former Clemson standout, comes on the heels of New Orleans' decision to release veteran running back Pierre Thomas, who often played on third downs because of both his versatility as a pass-catcher and his blocking ability.

Ingram, who rushed for 964 yards and nine touchdowns last season, often played on first or second downs, while Robinson, who rushed for 362 yards and three touchdowns, was inserted more sporadically on plays that suited his powerful running style.

"Obviously, I talked to Mark," Spiller said. "I am very happy for him to have the chance to remain a Saint. I am excited about the chance to play alongside with him."

Spiller said he was also pleased to rejoin safety Jairus Byrd, a former Bills teammate with whom he has been working out in California.

"We were able to get a great relationship while we were in Buffalo. Now we get a chance to keep that relationship going," Spiller said. "We both have the same mindset, and that's all about trying to get wins and getting the organization back into the playoffs."

The Saints, who went 7-9 last season, have made a flurry of moves in the past week or so that has resulted in a significant roster shuffle and the stockpiling of draft picks.

New Orleans has either traded away or released five prominent players: tight end Jimmy Graham, left guard Ben Grubbs, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, Thomas and Stills. White was also a regular, though usually a reserve unless pressed into starting roles by injuries.

The trades of Graham, Grubbs and Stills have brought in center Max Unger and Ellerbe, as well as additional draft picks in the first, third and fifth rounds. Following the Stills trade, the Saints had nine total draft picks in the seven rounds of this year's draft, having given up only their fourth rounder as part of the Graham deal.

Meanwhile, New Orleans has been able to bring prominent free agents on both sides of the ball — Spiller on offense and cornerback Brandon Browner on defense.


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