Saints sign former Patriots RB Mike Gillislee to 1-year deal

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints didn't stay thin at running back for long.

They signed veteran Mike Gillislee to a one-year contract on Sunday to help fill the void during Mark Ingram's four-game suspension to start the season.

The pairing makes perfect sense one day after Gillislee was released by the New England Patriots and one day after the Saints surprisingly released third-year running back Jonathan Williams, whom they later signed to their practice squad on Sunday, along with running back Dwayne Washington.

"He's a player we're familiar with," Saints coach Sean Payton said of Gillislee. "The vision is a first- and second-down runner that has given (teams) hard yards. He's a guy that can be physical, he can handle a workload. So the vision for the player is not to bring him in and throw him the ball 15 times in a game."

Gillislee, 27, actually began last season as a primary running back for the Patriots and scored three touchdowns in their season opener after he signed a two-year, $6.4 million contract with them as a restricted free agent. But he lost touches later in the season to Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White in a crowded New England backfield.

The Patriots let Lewis get away in free agency this year, but they added a similar power runner in veteran Jeremy Hill and drafted running back Sony Michel in the first round.

The Saints, on the other hand, had just two true tailbacks on their 53-man roster as of Sunday morning after they released Williams and placed Ingram on the reserve/suspended list for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Alvin Kamara will obviously be the Saints' leading man after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors last season. But Gillislee and rookie sixth-round draft pick Boston Scott should also see plenty of action as Kamara's backups after Saints coach Sean Payton made it clear that he doesn't want to overwork Kamara during Ingram's absence.

Gillislee, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, began his career as a fifth-round draft pick with the Miami Dolphins in 2013 and also spent time with the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. He has 1,248 career rushing yards, 94 career receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns.