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Fri 13/03/2015 - 15:31 EDT

Saints Clearly To Run Ball More In 2015 With C.J. Spiller Addition

The New Orleans Saints have been a baffling team this offseason. The Saints have been known as one of the most high-powered offenses in years because of arguably the best passing game in the NFL, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and one of the NFL's best play-calling head coaches in Sean Payton. However, it appears the Saints are going to attack defenses a lot differently in 2015: as a running team.

The Saints already traded perhaps the best receiving tight end in football, Jimmy Graham, to Seattle for center Max Unger, one of the best in the business when healthy, and a 2015 first-round pick that will be No. 31 overall. That trade was largely for salary-cap reasons, and GM Mickey Loomis said it was partly for defensive reasons. No one really understood what that meant. It became a bit more clear on Friday when the team traded promising young receiver Kenny Stills to Miami for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick.

Stills, 22, caught 63 passes for 931 yards and three touchdowns last year, coming on especially strong late in the season after fellow receiver Brandin Cooks went down with a thumb injury. The 6-foot, 194-pounder was a fifth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2013, who earned a part-time starting job right away as a rookie, finishing that year with 32 catches for 641 yards (a NFL-best 20.0 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.

Stills was only on the third year of his rookie deal and counted only $633, 613 against the 2015 cap. Ellerbe, 29, is set to make $8.425 million in 2015 and will likely have to take a pay cut with the Saints limited cap space. He missed 15 games last year with a season-ending hip injury, and backup linebacker Jelani Jenkins took his place and led the Dolphins with 110 tackles.

The Saints now have two 2015 first-round draft picks, a second-rounder, two third-rounders, two fifth-rounders, a sixth-rounder and a seventh-rounder.

New Orleans deemed both Graham and Stills expendable in part because they believe they can continue to produce a strong offense, as they always have in the Brees-Payton era. But clearly it will be more running. The club re-signed running back Mark Ingram, which made solid sense. But on Friday the Saints also agreed to terms with former Bills running back C.J. Spiller.

Spiller was limited by injury in 2014, rushing 78 times for 300 yards. He made the Pro Bowl in his best season in 2012, rushing 207 times for 1,244 yards and six touchdowns. He's also been a receiving threat, with 158 career receptions for 1,195 yards.  Spiller will likely fill the role being vacated by longtime Saints running back Pierre Thomas, who was released last week after eight years with the team. The Saints now have five running backs under contract for 2015: Ingram, Spiller, Khiry Robinson, Edwin Baker and Tim Hightower.

The Saints might not be done. They are still taking offers for every player on the roster other than Brees and Cooks but clearly the team is in the midst of the most extreme makeover since Payton took control of the Saints in 2006. Status quo was not an option after an ugly 7-9 campaign in 2014.

New Orleans is +2500 on Sportsbook.ag to win the NFC title.

Category : News

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