Saints’ de la Puente signs tender offer

Associated Press photo by BILL FEIG -- Saints guard Ben Grubbs, left, and center Brian de da Puente take a break during a timeout against Tampa Bay at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on  Dec. 16.
Associated Press photo by BILL FEIG -- Saints guard Ben Grubbs, left, and center Brian de da Puente take a break during a timeout against Tampa Bay at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Dec. 16.

New Orleans Saints starting center Brian de la Puente, a restricted free agent, signed the one-year tender offer that the team extended to him before free agency began in early March.

The Saints announced Tuesday that de la Puente, a four-year veteran, accepted the one-year, $2.023 million offer, which carried a second-round draft pick as compensation.

As a restricted free agent, de la Puente was eligible to receive an offer from any team. If he had, the Saints would have had the right to match the deal or accept a second-round pick in return.

De la Puente joined the Saints’ practice squad midway through the 2010 season and a year later took over as the starting center when Olin Kreutz retired before a Week 7 game with Indianapolis.

The 6-foot-3, 306-pounder started all 16 games at center for the first time in 2012 as part of an offensive line that surrendered only 26 sacks. He helped block for an offense that was second in the NFL in total net yards and led the league in passing yards.

Running back Chris Ivory is the Saints’ only other restricted free agent. Like de la Puente, he was offered a one-year tender for $2.023 million and has until April 19 to receive offers from other teams. If Ivory does not receive an offer by then, his negotiating rights revert exclusively to the Saints.