The Saints have signed ex-Raven Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs as the replacement for Carl Nicks, the young superstar at the same position who left for Tampa Bay.
The Saints signed Grubbs to a five year, $36 million contract with $16 million guaranteed on Wednesday, a day after Nicks signed the richest deal in NFL history for an interior lineman: five years, $47.5 million deal, including $31 million guaranteed.
Grubbs, 28, a mauler in the run game at 6'3, 310, will replace Nicks, 6'5, 343, at left guard. Both started for their conferences in the 2012 Pro Bowl in February, though Grubbs was elevated from first alternate.
A host of teams were after Grubbs including his 2011 team the Baltimore Ravens, who drafted him 29th overall in the 2007 draft, two spots after the Saints took WR Robert Meachem, now a Charger. The Redskins, Vikings, and Bengals were also after Grubbs. The Saints signed Grubbs during his one and only free agency visit, even though he had an offer from Baltimore in hand.
Grubbs out of Auburn was the number one guard in the 2007 NFL Draft, and in fact NOPF projected the Saints taking him in the first round of the 2007 Draft in one of our offseason mock drafts.
From Eclectic, Georgia, he played defensive tackle, tight end and finally offensive line at Auburn, where he started at guard for three seasons. He played all five years of his original rookie deal and left the Ravens as an unrestricted free agent.
Grubbs started as a rookie and 70 total games in five seasons. He missed six games last season because of a toe injury suffered in the season opener that surely diminished his value in this free agent market. He returned at midseason and started through the playoffs for the Ravens.
John Clayon of ESPN summarized the transaction: "The Saints couldn't afford paying $9.5 M a yr for Carl Nicks. Getting Ben Grubbs for $7.2 M was their only hope of protecting Drew Brees." It should also be noted that between the $16 million in guarantees in signing bonus and roster bonus, Grubbs' contract contains nearly half the guaranteed money of Nicks' deal.
Given the cap room reported and necessary to sign Colston, it is believed the Saints back-loaded Grubbs' contract to its minimize 2012 cap hit.