The Patriots lost a free agent when venerable fullback Heath Evans signed a two-year deal with the Saints.
The 30-year-old Evans was signed by the Patriots midway through the 2005 season after being released by the Dolphins and his most memorable game came that season, when he had a career-high 84 yards on 17 carries in a 23-16 win over his former team.
Evans was a valuable and versatile back, as well as a key special teams contributor. In three-plus seasons in New England, he rushed 123 times for 453 yards and three touchdowns and caught 24 passes for 224 yards and a score. Last season, Evans rushed 11 times for 23 yards and caught three passes for 59 yards. He added four special teams tackles.
Evans's departure leaves the Patriots without a true fullback. Evans had visited with the Saints Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Heath is a versatile and fundamentally sound fullback who can help our offense in a variety of roles, whether it be as a lead blocker, as a runner, or receiving option out of the backfield as well as on special teams," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement.
"He has played in a few different offensive systems and has adapted quickly and been a contributor to all of them."