The Saints will part ways with the last of the 2002 draft class at the beginning of free agency.
2002 first round draft pick DE Charles Grant, three years into a seven year contract, will be released, leaving a pressing need at defensive end. Grant, whose Saints tenure was replete big hits, big quotes, injuries, an off-field manslaughter charge and the Starcaps case, will become a free agent on the first day of free agency, March 5.
Grant was one half of the compensation paid for RB Ricky Williams to the Saints from the Dolphins. Two first round picks were paid over two seasons, one of which became Grant and the other traded for the rights to get bust DT Jonathan Sullivan.
Grant missed the end of the past two seasons with triceps injuries that required surgery. He was lost in the season finale of the Saints' 13-3 season and did not play in the playoffs. Grant got off to a hot start in 2009, collecting back-to-back two-sack games in weeks three and four. But he collected only 1.5 sacks the rest of the year. He started all 16 regular season games but gave way to backups Bobby McCray and Jeff Charleston regularly during games.
Grant was the longest tenured current Saint and started 106 regular season games and two playoff games, both in 2006. He has 47 career sacks.
His release is due in most part to his massive seven year contract, signed in the 2007 offseason, which carries a total value of $63 million and $20 million in guaranteed money.
Grant and Tennessee WR Donte Stallworth were the Saints' two first round picks in 2002, 13th and 25th overall.
The Saints also released LB Marc Simoneau, who was acquired from the Eagles when the Saints traded Stallworth away after the 2005 season. Simoneau missed the Saints' Super Bowl XLIV run with a preseason triceps injury. He spent the entire season on injured reserve.
The team also released veteran Jamar Nesbit, the elder statesman of the Saints' offensive line. Nesbit, 33, started 33 games for the Saints since joining the team in 2004, but did not start in 2009 and has started only three games since the end of the 2007 season.
Simoneau and Nesbit will also be unrestricted free agents.