Former Jags punter agrees to $635,000 deal with Saints
Just two days after being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, former Pro Bowl punter and six-year veteran Chris Hanson found a new home, signing a one-year, $635,000 contract with the New Orleans Saints.
Hanson, 30, was made expendable in Jacksonville when the Jaguars chose Maryland punter Adam Podlesh in the fourth round of last weekend's draft. Shortly after picking him, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio announced that Podlesh would be the team's No. 1 punter, and that sent a signal that Hanson's days were numbered.
In New Orleans, Hanson will compete with second-year veteran Steven Weatherford for the punting job, but is an overwhelming favorite to win it. Weatherford last season replaced 12-year veteran Mitch Berger, who spent the entire 2006 campaign on the injured reserve list with a pelvic injury.
Earlier this week, the Saints quietly released Berger, who had been the New Orleans punter and kickoff specialist from 2003 to 2005. Weatherford averaged 43.8 gross yards and 37.5 net yards on 77 punts in 2006.
Hanson has slumped the past few years, largely because of minor but persistent leg injuries, and he is coming off a 2006 season in which he registered a career-low gross average of 40.6 yards. His net average, 33.4 yards, was Hanson's worst since 2002.
A former Marshall University standout who joined the Jaguars as a free agent in 2001, Hanson was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2002, but has struggled ever since. In 2003, he missed all but five games of the season after a locker room accident in which he gashed his leg with an axe. Del Rio, admonishing his team to keep "chopping wood," had put the ax and a tree trunk in the locker room.
The addition of Hanson completes an overhaul of the New Orleans kicking game. The Saints earlier in the offseason acquired former Miami Dolphins kicker Olindo Mare in a trade, and then cut long-time kicker John Carney.
In six seasons, Hanson has punted 428 times and averaged 42.9 yards gross and 35.9 yards net. He has never had a punt blocked. Hanson has 136 kicks inside the opponents' 20-yard line and just 50 touchbacks.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.