As if Drew Brees didn't have enough offensive weapons in his multi-faceted arsenal, the New Orleans Saints added yet another - free agent wide receiver Dez Bryant - just before they take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
In the latest sign that the 7-1 Saints are going all-in to win a Super Bowl this season behind the leadership and veteran skills of the 39-year-old Brees, New Orleans signed Bryant to a one-year deal on Thursday. Bryant was released in the spring after playing for eight seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, averaging 66.4 catches per season, 14.0 yards per catch and 73 touchdowns.
"I've heard a lot of great things about him," said Brees, who has led the Saints to seven consecutive victories and is averaging 292 passing yards per game with a league-best 76.3 completion percentage, 18 touchdown passes and only one interception. "I think he'll add a good element to already a pretty good cast of skill players. I look forward to getting to work with him."
Saints coach Sean Payton did not indicate if or how much Bryant would play against the Bengals -- his first practice was Thursday and his knowledge of the playbook would be limited - but it is clear Payton wants a complement to second-year receiver Michael Thomas, who has 70 catches for 880 yards and five scores. The Saints' next most productive wide receiver, rookie Tre'Quan Smith, has just 12 catches.
"Dez has been a really good player in this league for a very long time," Brees said. "There's certainly a skill set that he has that's going to be very beneficial. I think he'll be a great addition."
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, whose 5-3 team is coming off a bye week, said it was hard to guess how much of an impact Bryant would have on the Saints' game plan.
"I don't need to speculate," Lewis said. "I've not seen Dez play football this season. Dez was a good player with the Cowboys and had a lot of production. But he's going to a new team, and we'd be wasting time speculating whether or not he's going to be up and part of that (active gameday roster of) 46."
The Bengals likely will be without one of their most important offensive weapons. Wide receiver A.J. Green, who has caught 45 passes for 687 yards (15.3-yard average) and scored six touchdowns, has a toe injury.
"It's just a tough loss seeing our best player go down," said receiver Tyler Boyd. "It's just more opportunities for the rest of our guys to make plays."
"It is a huge impact," Payton said of not having to face Green. "He is someone that commands a ton of coverage respect. He is one of their better players. That is always difficult."
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (hip), linebacker Nick Vigil (knee), cornerback Darqueze Dennard (strernoclavicular), tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) and guard Alex Redmond (hamstring) also did not practice Wednesday.
The Saints are battling injuries on their offensive line. Starting tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk and center Max Unger practiced on a limited basis because of sore knees, as did left guard Andrus Peat (hip).