NEW ORLEANS SAINTS UPDATE 

lFREE-AGENT ROUNDUP: SANDERS TO SAINTS; DRAKE SIGNS TAG; HOWARD A FIN & MORE

As NFL.com's Grant Gordon framed it, "From a Super Bowl runner-up to a potential Super Bowl contender goes Emmanuel Sanders. ..."

This after Sanders agreed on a two-year deal worth $16 million to join the New Orleans Saints.

Sanders is on his way to his third team in two seasons as he was traded from the Broncos to the 49ers during the 2019 season and aided San Francisco in its march to a Super Bowl berth.

At 33, Sanders showed he's still got plenty left as he combined for 66 receptions, 869 yards receiving and five touchdowns with the Niners and Broncos.

A three-time 1,000-yard receiver and two-time Pro Bowler who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos, Sanders fills a huge need for the Saints that they've long desired with a No. 2 wideout option opposite record-setting star Michael Thomas.

Thomas truly was in a league of his own, breaking Indianapolis Colts legend Marvin Harrison's single-season reception record (143 in 2002) with 149 catches for a league- and career-best 1,725 yards receiving. He was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year as a result.

He was also named to the Pro Bowl for the third straight season and landed his second consecutive first-team All-Pro selection.

Thomas’ four-year cumulative production -- 470 receptions, 5,512 yards -- are the most by a player in his first four seasons all-time.

All these accomplishments have come without a true threat to work opposite Thomas.

As quarterback Drew Brees returns to lead an already vaunted Saints offense, it’s possible New Orleans has found another -- very important -- piece in Sanders. ...

In Arizona. ... Kenyan Drake is locked in for 2020 with the Cardinals. Since being traded from the Dolphins to the Cardinals during the 2019 season, all has seemed harmonious for Drake in the desert and that seems to have continued on Saturday as his agents announced the running back signed his transition tag tender offer.

For Drake, it means no offer sheet or trade is upcoming, but the chance for a long-term deal could still be a possibility.

In eight games last year with the Cardinals, Drake produced 80.4 yards per game rushing and 643 total with eight touchdowns, while adding to the passing attack with 28 catches for 171 yards in that time.

With David Johnson shipped off to Houston (with the Cardinals getting DeAndre Hopkins back as part of the deal), Drake has a clear path to workload in what should be an increasingly productive (and already fast-paced) offense. ...

In Miami. ... Veteran running back Jordan Howard is headed to Miami, getting a two-year, $10 million contract with the Dolphins.

A fifth-round pick prior to that season, Howard exploded onto the scene with 1,313 rushing yards. Following up his dominant rookie season, Howard posted his second-consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2017 with 1,122 yards on the ground. Howard combined for 15 rushing touchdowns between the two years.

Howard spent last season with the Eagles, and rushed for 525 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and was impressive when healthy.

He unfortunately dealt with a shoulder injury that held him out for the remainder of the season.

Since 2016, Howard has the third-most rushing yards and seventh-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL.

Howard's consistent touchdown production makes him one of just five players to rush for at least six scores in each the past four season.

And now Howard gets a fantastic opportunity in Miami, where he joins Kalen Ballage, who rushed for just 135 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games last season, Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskins in the Dolphins' backfield.

Miami finished dead last in the NFL in rushing yards, as it averaged just 72.3 yards on the ground per game. Part of that had to do with turnover at the running back position -- as Mark Walton was released in the middle of the season after an issue with police, Drake was traded away and Ballage dealt with injuries -- but it also had to do with the fact that the Dolphins were one of the worst teams in the league.

That seems likely to change in 2020, however, as the Dolphins have been active with their surplus of cap space and possess a bevy of draft picks which will be utilized next month.

In Pittsburgh. ... The Steelers added another pass-catching target for Ben Roethlisberger on Friday, when they signed tight end Eric Ebron to a two-year contract worth $12 million.

A former first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2014, Ebron spent the last two seasons with the Colts. Ebron's inconsistent play and penchant for drops has caused frustration among fans during his first six seasons, but there is talent there when he puts it together.

Playing with Andrew Luck in 2018, Ebron put up a career-high 750 yards on 66 catches with a whopping 13 TDs. He followed that up with a 2019 campaign that again saw inconsistency and ended prematurely due to an ankle injury.

His injury history coupled with up-and-down play makes Ebron an interesting add for the Steelers. Could he recapture his 2018 magic with Big Ben? The 6-foot-4 target can play a big role in the red zone, where the Steelers need help.

Ebron joins Vance McDonald and Zach Gentry in the Steelers TE crew. A pass-catching tight end who has struggled in his career as a blocker, Ebron could play a big role in the Steelers offense for a quarterback who loves finding TEs when the play breaks down. First, the tight end must stay healthy. ...

In Las Vegas. ... The Raiders have reached a one-year deal with free-agent wide receiver Nelson Agholor, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Saturday.

Agholor, who turns 27 on May 24, flashed brightly at times with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he struggled to find consistency during his five seasons with the team.

He fought through confidence issues early in his tenure to put together a career season in 2017, when he caught 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. He followed that up with a nine-catch, 84-yard showing in Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots to help Philadelphia capture its first Lombardi trophy.

Agholor, the Eagles' first-round pick out of USC in 2015, had difficulty getting on the same page with quarterback Carson Wentz this past season and finished with a receptions-per-target rate of 56 percent, which ranked 132nd in the NFL, per ESPN Stats and Information.

Agholor, who was at his best as a slot receiver with the Eagles, is a speedy, gifted route runner with plenty of natural ability but there were key drops last season, including a costly one late in a Week 2 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. A knee injury kept him out of five of the last six games of the 2019 regular season.

In his five NFL seasons, Agholor has 224 catches on 375 targets for 2,515 yards -- an average of 11.2 yards per catch -- and 18 touchdowns. ...

The Raiders also reached a one-year deal to re-sign running back Rod Smith, who appeared in three games on special teams last season.

Smith, 28, also saw action on special teams in three games for the Titans in 2019 after starting the season with the Giants, with whom he signed but never played. He also has played for the Seahawks and Cowboys during his five NFL seasons, rushing for 364 yards and five touchdowns on 101 carries.

Go ahead and add tight end Nick O'Leary to the list of new Raiders.

O’Leary opened last season with the Dolphins, but got released in October. He signed with the Jaguars in November and finished the year with 13 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in 12 games.

In Carolina. ... As they prepare to part ways with their franchise quarterback, the Panthers continue to work the margins of free agency.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Panthers are signing former Raiders and Ravens wide receiver Seth Roberts. The Panthers also announced they signed receiver and return man Pharoh Cooper.

Roberts caught 21 passes for Baltimore last year, after two straight 40-catch seasons with the Raiders previously.

A first-team All-Pro in 2017, Cooper spent most of the 2019 season with the Cardinals. Carolina also signed cornerback Juston Burris.

Carolina had also agreed to terms with tight end Seth DeValve, according to DeValve's agent.

In Denver. ... Tight end Nick Vannett moved from the Seahawks to the Steelers during the 2019 season and he’s on the move again this offseason.

Vannett has agreed to a two-year deal with the Broncos. Mike Klis of KUSA reports that it is worth up to $5.7 million with a $1.75 million signing bonus and $1 million salary this season.

A solid blocker, Vannett combined for 17 receptions between his time in Seattle and Pittsburgh last year.

He’ll complement Noah Fant in Denver, although Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli and Jake Butt are also on hand at the position for the Broncos. ...

In Indianapolis. ... The Colts officially signed quarterback Philip Rivers Saturday, and they’ve still got quarterback Jacoby Brissett on the roster as well. So there wasn’t room for quarterback Brian Hoyer.

Hoyer was released by the Colts today.

Last season Hoyer played most of two games in relief of the injured Brissett and didn’t look great, completing just 53.8 percent of his passes and managing only 5.7 yards per pass, with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

As Profootballtalk.com notes, despite the way he played last year, the 34-year-old Hoyer is the kind of competent veteran that NFL teams like to have in camp, and so he’ll probably catch on somewhere. Hoyer has had two stints with the Patriots and also spent time with the Steelers, Cardinals, Browns, Texans, Bears and 49ers, and it’s likely that one of the many coaches he’s played for before will come calling again.

In Tennessee. ... The Titans have agreed to terms with tight end MyCole Pruitt, Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio reports.

Pruitt, who turns 28 next week, has spent the past two seasons in Tennessee.

He has played 31 games with 11 starts for the Titans, making 15 receptions for 192 yards and two touchdowns.

Pruitt, a fifth-round choice of the Vikings in 2015, has played games for Minnesota, Chicago, Houston and Tennessee.

In his five seasons, he has 27 catches for 294 yards and two touchdowns.

In New York. ... The Jets have exercised the 2021 option year on tight end Ryan Griffin’s contract, Field Yates of ESPN reports.

Griffin, 30, signed an extension with the Jets last November.

The Jets originally signed him last July, two months after the Texans cut him. He had 34 catches for 320 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games before ankle surgery landed him on injured reserve in December.

In his seven seasons since Houston made him a sixth-round choice, Griffin has 170 catches for 1,811 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Griffin's ongoing presence could be a limiting factor for Chris Herndon. ...

And finally, in New England. ... The Patriots are signed fullback Danny Vitale.

Vitale spent the last two seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

The 26-year-old Vitale could be a valuable addition as a blocker, especially after the Patriots wound up using a linebacker at fullback last season in Elandon Roberts.

However, the Patriots’ early pursuit of Vitale may not be a good sign for longtime starter James Develin, who finished 2020 on injured reserve following a neck injury.

Develin has spent the last eight seasons with the Patriots and has drawn high praise from throughout the organization for his abilities to help power the run game.

But the 31-year-old’s outlook is unclear at this point.

The move to acquire Vitale may be a precautionary measure or an effort to add depth and younger training camp competition. We won’t know for certain until the Patriots reconvene for offseason activities.

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