The Bucs have stolen the prize bull from the Saints' pasture.
All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks, generally regarded as the top interior offensive linemen in the league, has signed with Tampa Bay.
The Bucs topped Jahri Evans' deal and made Nicks the highest paid guard in history, a whopping five-year, $47.5 million deal, including $31 million guaranteed. Nicks said all along that he wanted $8 million per year.
Earlier this week, Nicks reversed an aggressive tone on twitter and seemed to make some reconciliation with the Saints, enjoying some time with his Saint teammates in New Orleans and saying that the Saints' delayed contract offer was "fair". At the start of free agency, however, Nicks was in Tampa Bay.
New Bucs head coach Greg Schiano appealed to Nicks' strengths as a run blocker, and Nicks said he as excited about Tampa's run-oriented system powered by bruiser LeGarrette Blount. Nicks joked that the Saints offense was "pass first... and second... and third..." on national radio.
A fifth round pick of the Saints in 2008, Nicks was an inspired selection. He started as a rookie, taking over Jamar Nesbit's job after Nesbit opted to serve his Starcaps suspension instead of joining the appeal. Nesbit never regained his job after Nicks, a collegiate left tackle, quickly emerged as a dominant left guard.
Paired with Jahri Evans, Nicks helped keep Brees' downfield passing lanes clear, a crucial factor for a 6'0 quarterback. Now Nicks will be paired with G Davin Joseph, giving Tampa one the best pair of guards in the league, a title that New Orleans had enjoyed for the last four seasons.
Three years ago, the Saints nearly lost freee agent middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma to Tampa Bay. In 2008, the Saints and Bucs exchanged broadsides - the Bucs stole C Jeff Faine, but the Saints re-signed WR Devery Henderson and RB Aaron Stecker, who were hotly sought after by Tampa Bay. In 2007, the Bucs were flirting with franchise-tagged DE Charles Grant before he re-signed. In 2005, the Saints "stole" Bucs free agent DB Dwight Smith, but released him a year later.
The acquisition of Nicks was a direct hit against the Saints' front line, where the team is evaluating Baltimore free agent G Ben Grubbs, picked two spots after Robert Meachem in 2007.
Ironically, on the same day they signed Nicks, the Bucs released Faine.
The Bucs also signed ex-Charger free agent WR Vincent Jackson and ex-Lion free agent CB Eric Wright.