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John DeShazier: C.J. Spiller brings functional game speed to Saints

Spiller: 'Any time you can get the ball in different ways and try to help your team win, and try to help your offense succeed, it’s always exciting'

Associated press photos of new New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller.

You'd have to be fast to keep with the New Orleans Saints' maneuvers in free agency this offseason, faster still in order to track the team's latest free agent acquisition.

Running back C.J. Spiller is on record as logging a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, and it's more than just straight-line speed that the Saints will be getting from the five-year veteran who, on Friday, agreed to terms on a four-year contract.

It's functional, game speed that Spiller will add to the Saints' offense, a scoring-threat-from-anywhere-on-the-field element that figures to make the league's No. 1 offense (411.4 yards per game last season) more potent.

In five seasons with Buffalo, Spiller (5 feet 11, 200 pounds) ran for 3,315 yards and 12 touchdowns on 668 carries (five yards per carry), caught 158 passes for 1,195 yards and six touchdowns, returned 60 kickoffs for 1,463 yards (24.4-yard average) and two touchdowns, and returned 25 punts for 302 yards.

When he was named team MVP in 2012, Spiller ran for 1,244 yards and six touchdowns on 207 carries, caught 43 passes for 459 yards and two touchdowns and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.

"I said all along that I wanted to go somewhere that I was wanted," said Spiller, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 draft. "I visited New Orleans and got a chance to meet the coaches and the (General Manager), Mickey Loomis. They wanted me to be a part of the organization and I felt comfortable after the visit.

"I wanted to gather my thoughts on my way back to L.A. I sent a text over to my agent and told him to try to hammer out a deal because I wanted to be a part of the organization."

Spiller, who last year missed seven games with a collarbone injury and finished with 78 carries for 300 yards, 19 receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown and 10 kickoff returns for 306 yards and one score, could fill a Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles-type role for the Saints.

"Obviously, that's what people are going to assume," Spiller said. "I've been very fortunate to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield and do different things for my skillset. I'm pretty sure Coach (Sean) Payton is going to be very creative and try to find mismatches for everybody on the offensive side of the ball, and try to find a way to attack the defense. I'm excited to be a part of it, a great organization and a great offense and getting a chance to play with a Pro Bowler like Drew Brees and the rest of the guys. It's going to be fun.

"I've always had a close eye on the Saints, how they use their running backs. Being friends with Reggie and Darren Sproles, following those guys' careers, I was able to watch how they were used in different situations while they were with the Saints. That was always intriguing. Any time you can get the ball in different ways and try to help your team win, and try to help your offense succeed, it's always exciting. That was a very vital part in the whole process."

Spiller's agreeing to terms Friday capped a second consecutive day filled with activity for the Saints.

Also Friday, the franchise traded wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and Miami's 2015 third-round draft pick, and waived defensive back Corey White.

Thursday, the Saints re-signed inside linebacker Ramon Humber to a two-year contract, agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent cornerback Brandon Browner on a three-year contract and traded guard Ben Grubbs to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for Kansas City's fifth-round draft pick in 2015.

Ellerbe (6-1, 245 pounds), a six-year NFL veteran who was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009, possibly could fill in at linebacker for Curtis Lofton, the Saints' leading tackler last season who was released this offseason. Lofton signed with Oakland this week.

Ellerbe has played for the Ravens (2009-12) and the Dolphins (2013-14). He has appeared in 62 career games with 30 starts and has posted career totals of 273 tackles (203 solo), 6.5 sacks, three interceptions, nine passes defensed, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries. He started Miami's 2014 season opener before being placed on Injured Reserve.

And Browner (6-4, 221) is a five-year NFL veteran who has played for the New England Patriots (2014), Seattle Seahawks (2011-13) Denver Broncos (2005) and the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders (2007-10). Browner was a member of Super Bowl teams in consecutive seasons, Seattle in 2014 and New England this year.

He has started all 45 regular-season games he's appeared in and has registered 143 tackles (116 solo), 11 interception returns for 340 yards with two touchdowns, 46 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Browner signed with the Patriots in the 2014 offseason, opening all nine regular season contests he appeared in and posted 26 tackles (22 solo), a 32-yard interception return and six passes defensed for the Super Bowl XLIX champions. He then started all three postseason games and made seven tackles (six solo) and one pass defensed.

In his first full NFL season in 2011, Browner was selected to the Pro Bowl when he posted a team-high six interceptions with two touchdowns and defensed 23 passes.

He, Ellerbe and Humber will help bolster a unit that ranked 31st in total defense last season, allowing 384 yards per game.

And Spiller is excited to help jazz up an offense that has led the league in offense five times since Payton was named head coach in 2006.

"Any time you can be at the top of the league as an offense, it's always good because that means you're putting up a lot of points, you're putting up a lot of yards, you're being successful, you're giving your team a chance to win ballgames on Sundays," Spiller said. "So that was very intriguing to see the numbers that they have put up since 2006. I'm just glad to be a part of it and try to help continue to be a successful offense."

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