Saints tender restricted free agents Hill, Lelito
NEW ORLEANS (AP) The New Orleans Saints and former Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener agreed to the terms of a five-year contract on Wednesday, hours after the NFL's free agency period began.
The addition of Fleener, a four-year veteran who caught 54 passes for 491 yards and three touchdowns last season, helps fill a void left by tight end Ben Watson's departure for Baltimore.
Watson was New Orleans' top receiving tight end last season, catching 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns, which set or matched career highs in all three categories.
But while Watson is 35 years old and entering his 13th NFL season, the 6-foot-6 Fleener is 27 and demonstrated considerable potential two seasons ago, when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was healthy. That season, Fleener caught 51 passes for 774 yards and eight TDs. Now he'll play with Brees, the same QB who helped Watson and former Saints tight end Jimmy Graham have the best years of their careers.
New Orleans also has re-signed kicker Kai Forbath. A person familiar with negotiations, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Forbath's signing has not been announced, said the kicker has a new one-year contract. Forbath made nine of 13 field goals - including two of three from 50 yards and beyond - in 10 games with New Orleans last season. He'll have to compete to retain his job with veteran Josh Scobee, who was signed by the Saints last week.
Meanwhile, New Orleans also has extended tender offers to two restricted free agents, tight end Josh Hill and guard Tim Lelito, meaning the Saints can match any offer those players receive from other clubs.
The signing of Fleener and the tender to Hill all but ensures the Saints' the ability to have three experienced tight ends on the 2016 roster. Earlier this week, New Orleans agreed to terms on a new three-year contract with Michael Hoomanawanui, whom the Saints acquired last season from New England.
The Saints declined to extend tenders to several restricted free agents, including running back Khiry Robinson, whose 2015 season ended with a fractured right tibia against the New York Giants on Nov. 1.
Robinson becomes one of four Saints players with fewer than four accrued seasons to become an unrestricted free agent, along with interior defensive linemen Austin Brown and Lawrence Virgil and guard Ryan Seymour.
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