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Saints add free agent kicker Billy Cundiff

Hoping to gain an edge on special teams, the New Orleans Saints have signed free agent kicker Billy Cundiff, a four-year veteran, to handle kickoff duties.

New Orleans waived backup fullback Corey McIntyre to create a roster spot for Cundiff, who kicked for the Dallas Cowboys from 2002-2005, and was regarded during his tenure as one of the NFL's best kickoff men.

On Saturday, the Atlanta Falcons, who play the Saints on Sunday at the Georgia Dome, claimed McIntyre on waivers. Since the Falcons already have two fullbacks on the roster, one suspicion is that they want to get information from McIntyre about the Sunday game plan. The Falcons waived safety Cam Newton to carve out a roster spot.

Ironically, Cundiff was one of four free agents who auditioned for New Orleans coaches and personnel officials the week before the start of the regular season, as the Saints' brass deliberated the future of kicker John Carney. But the 17-year veteran Carney got off to a good start, and has enjoyed a solid season, converting 16 of 18 field goal tries.

Carney has been forced to handle the kickoff chores as well this year, however, because of the loss of punter Mitch Berger to a season-ending injury in training camp. In addition to his punting duties, Berger handled kickoffs in the past, and was one of the NFL's best performers in that area.

The Saints are hopeful that Cundiff can provide them depth and hangtime on kickoffs, and feel that alleviating Carney of the additional chore will keep him fresh for the playoff stretch run. Saints first-year coach Sean Payton, the former assistant head coach in Dallas, is familiar with Carney from the time they spent together in Dallas.

The Saints' coverage unit is permitting opponents an average starting point of beyond the 28-yard line following kickoffs, the eighth most generous mark in the league. Cundiff has a career average of 61.2 yards per kickoff and opponents have returned his kicks for an average of just 19.7 yards.

While he will not handle placements, Cundiff might be viewed by Saints officials as a potential replacement for Carney at some point in the future. Despite his solid season, Carney is 42, and most observers in the league feel Cundiff has potential as a field goal specialist, despite his struggles the past two years.

Cundiff has converted 60 of 82 field goal tries for his career. He shares the league record for most field goals in a game, seven.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.