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Saints replace Nicks with Grubbs; Ravens looking at Mathis

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs, and Evan Mathis are playing an interesting game of musical chairs. (Getty Images)

The New Orleans Saints didn't waste time replacing left guard Carl Nicks after Nicks signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Losing the best guard in the NFL was a major hit to the Saints' offense, but New Orleans recovered nicely by agreeing to terms with former Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Grubbs. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Grubbs will play in the Big Easy for the next five years at the price of $36 million, with $16 million guaranteed.

Grubbs isn't quite in Nicks' class, but he's an excellent drive blocker who can play right and left tackle should the Saints choose to move elite right guard Jahri Evans to the left side - although, given Evans' importance to the Saints' roll-right offense, Grubbs may just replace Nicks outright. Selected with the 29th overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft out of Auburn, Grubbs started 70 of 74 possible games for the Ravens as they assembled one of the best offensive lines in the game. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2009 and 2010, making the first squad as a Super Bowl replacement for Brian Waters and Logan Mankins.of the New England Patriots.

With Grubbs out of the picture, the Ravens have turned their attention to former Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis, one of the more underrated players at his position. The 30-year-old Mathis excelled in 2011 under veteran offensive line coach Howard Mudd, and recently said that he would like to return to the Eagles if things could be worked out.

"Just throw me $20 and a pizza and I'm in," Mathis jokingly told Philly.com in early March.

It will take much more than that for any team to gain Mathis' game. Playing under a vet-minimum salary benefit contract in 2011, he outplayed that deal to a crazy degree, and could very well receive a contract in the same range as Grubbs'. The only question is whether teams see Mathis as a one-year wonder, and are concerned about his age.

"I'm 30, and some people consider that old by NFL standards," Mathis recently said. "Objectively, I have limited mileage on my body, no serious injuries, a new CBA that focuses on player safety, a gym that will keep me in peak physical condition, and a drive to be the best."

The Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts had already inquired about Mathis' interest in signing with them.

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