NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Restricted free agent receiver Cameron Meredith is the newest member of a New Orleans Saints offense that ranked second in the NFL last season.
Sean Payton said Wednesday that Meredith has signed with New Orleans after the Chicago Bears declined to match an offer from the Saints. Meredith’s agent, Cliff Brady, said the Bears declined to match the two-year offer worth about $10 million.
The Bears had until Wednesday afternoon to decide on whether to keep their 2016 receiving leader, who missed all of last season with a major knee injury.
The 25-year-old Meredith has played two NFL seasons. He caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns two seasons ago, when his position coach was Curtis Johnson, who is now with the Saints.
Last season, Meredith tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a preseason game against Tennessee.
Meredith joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois State. Because the Bears offered him a low restricted free-agent tender commensurate with an undrafted player, Chicago will not receive any compensation from the Saints in the form of draft picks.
Meredith now moves to an offense led by record-setting quarterback Drew Brees that ranked fifth in yards passing last season, with 261.8 yards per game, and second overall, with 391.2 yards per game.
He also becomes part of a team that came within seconds of advancing to last season’s NFC title game.
During NFL meetings in March, Payton said adding a receiver ranked high on New Orleans’ offseason wish list. The Saints also brought in veteran free agent tight end Benjamin Watson last week to bolster the passing game.
Top receiver Michael Thomas is returning, along with veteran receiver Ted Ginn, a prime deep threat. It remains to be seen whether restricted free agent Willie Snead will return to the Saints as he is able to solicit offer sheets from other clubs.
The addition of Meredith also could have draft implications for the Saints, who continued to seek a player who can help with the pass rush, particularly from the edge opposite All-Pro end Cameron Jordan.