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Jamaal Williams, coming off a year with the Detroit Lions, has agreed to join the New Orleans Saints on a three-year, $12 million deal, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The deal includes $8 million fully guaranteed.
Williams fit seamlessly into the Lions organization after joining the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2021. He had career-best numbers in 2022, leading the league with 17 rushing touchdowns — a franchise record set by Hall of Famer Barry. Sanders in 1991 — rushed for a career high of 1,066 yards.
In doing so, Williams, who turns 28 in April, became the first Lions player to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season since Reggie Bush in 2013.
Williams’ 10 goal-line touchdowns last season also tied for the top in the NFL.
His infectious personality made him a team leader among Lions teammates and coaching staff. Around Christmas, he gifts custom clothing to players and members of the staff, and he often goes viral for entertaining meetings with members of the media and motivational speeches on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
In 2022, the Saints struggled with consistency, finishing the season 19th in rushing yards. New Orleans hasn’t had a solid duo in the backfield since the 2020 season when Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray finished sixth. When Kamara and Mark Ingram combined, they also finished sixth in rushing yards in 2018.
The franchise has cycled through running backs over the past several years, releasing Murray at the start of the 2021 season (although they briefly brought him back in 2022). They also brought in Devonta Freeman during training camp in 2021, but elected to go with 2020 undrafted rookie Tony Jones Jr. instead.
After Jones was injured, the Saints lacked depth at running back and re-acquired Ingram in a 2021 trade with the Houston Texans. Although Ingram became the Saints’ all-time leader, he played in only 10 games in 2022 due to injuries. Ingram, 33, became a free agent on Wednesday.
The deal with Williams marked the latest in a string of moves for the Saints, who also reached deals with free agent defensive tackles Cullen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd. Adding Williams provides a backup plan if Kamara, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges that he and three others beat a man unconscious at a Las Vegas Strip nightclub before the NFL’s 2022 Pro Bowl, is suspended. Kamara is due back in court in July.
Williams spent his first four seasons with the Green Bay Packers after being selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. In six NFL seasons, he has rushed for 3,652 yards, caught 160 passes for 1,191 yards and scored 38 total touchdowns.
ESPN’s Catherine Terrell and Eric Woodyard contributed to this report.