April 24, 2007

Grant's Pre-Draft Signing Huge For Team

Saints keep starting LDE Grant with new seven year contract

After slapping the franchise tag on Charles Grant, we wrote that the two sides must learn from the mistakes the franchise made with Darren Howard.

The Haslett era's first draft pick, Howard was poised to hit free agency before getting the tag not one year but two, spoiling his relationship with the team and his attitude.

The Saints have avoided a similar issue with one of Howard's former linemates by signing starting left defensive end Charles Grant to a new seven year contract that has a maximum value of $63 million.

The biggest number is $20 million in guaranteed cash, right in line with big contracts signed by two others: DE Patrick Kerney and LB/DE Adalius Thomas. It's reported that the Saints and Grant didn't have much luck in negotiations before and immediately after the franchise tag was placed on Grant during Mardi Gras.

Talks heated up in the past two weeks, as the Saints were formulating their strategy and the Bucs were salivating over the former 2002 first round pick out of Georgia. One of the biggest factors was likely the contracts of Kerney and Thomas, who set the standard for new contracts for premier players at the position. Grant's contract will also influence the negotiations of others in the league, including Miami's Jason Taylor and the Saints' own Will Smith.

Grant had played out his original five-year rookie contract, signed after the Saints drafted Grant with the second of their two first round picks. Grant was selected with one of the two picks the Saints received from Miami in the trade for Ricky Williams. The Saints packaged the other first round pick in a trade they used to select Johnathan Sullivan.

Grant collected his base salary only last year, little more than $600,000.

The new contract is worth $24 million over the first three years and is much easier on the salary cap this year than his $8.64 million franchise tag. The guaranteed money is split over signing bonus and a roster bonus next season.

Grant is the third most tenured original Saint draft pick. Only LS Kevin Houser (7th round, 2000) and RB Deuce McAllister (1st round, 2001) have been with the team longer now. The Saints have only one player left one from each of the 2000, 2001 and 2002 drafts.

When interviewed on WWL 870AM this afternoon, Grant thanked God, the fans in Louisiana, the coaching staff, God again, and then team owner Tom Benson.

Grant also commented that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers told him in a visit earlier this offseason that they would sign him the minute he hit the open market. In hindsight, a potentially relationship-damaging move to tag Grant has turned out great for both sides.

The Saints prevented Grant from leaving for a divisional rival, and Grant's contract was shaped by an exploding free agent market.

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