- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The New Orleans Saints have agreed to a deal with former Canadian Football League star receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, agent Dan Vertlieb confirmed Thursday.
It's not clear yet if Williams will join the practice squad or the active roster. The Saints have not announced the transaction, which won't become official until Friday.
Williams, 25, got NFL looks with the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico State in 2009. But it was in the CFL where he made his mark, scoring a team-record 17 touchdowns last year (11 receiving, five on punt returns and one on a missed field goal return) with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The six return touchdowns set a CFL record.
The dynamic 5-foot-8, 175-pounder was named the league's top rookie in 2011 with 70 catches for 1,064 receiving yards and six touchdowns, plus another 333 return yards. Then last year Williams caught 83 passes for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns and led the CFL with 78 punt returns for 1,117 yards and five touchdowns.
It's unclear if the Saints envision Williams as someone who could help immediately in either the passing game or return game, or if they're looking at him as more of a long-term project. They're well-stocked in both areas, though they may want to consider lessening Darren Sproles' workload as a punt returner.
Either way, Williams is expected to need some time to get in game shape after not playing this year in the CFL.
According to The Canadian Press, which first reported the signing, Williams became free to pursue NFL opportunities on Wednesday after a lengthy legal battle to be let out of his contract with the Tiger-Cats. Williams was sitting out the current season, and the team ultimately reached an agreement to let him leave.
8hEric D. Williams