Saints commit to Grant with new seven-year deal

Updated: April 26, 2007, 4:17 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Charles Grant
Grant

In a deal that locks up one of their standout young defensive ends long-term, the New Orleans Saints on Thursday reached agreement with five-year veteran Charles Grant on a new seven-year contract.

The monster deal for the left end could be worth as much as $63 million over the course of the seven years, league sources told ESPN.com, and it includes $20 million in guarantees. That includes an initial signing bonus and also a guaranteed option bonus due next spring.

Negotiated by agent Bill Johnson of Atlanta-based ProFiles Sports, Inc., the contract will pay Grant $24 million in its first three years and nearly $35 million in the first five years. In terms of structure, payout and guarantees, the contract is close to the deal that linebacker Adalius Thomas signed with New England earlier in the free-agency period. Over the past seven months, Johnson, along with partner and ProFiles founder Pat Dye Jr., has negotiated over $100 million in new contracts.

"We've been talking on and off since they put the franchise tag on Charles ... and things really picked up the past two weeks," Johnson said. "I think everyone was anxious to get it done, and the numbers finally came together. There was no doubt that, if the deal was right, Charles wanted to stay [in New Orleans] for the long haul. He believes in what is going on there and the direction [general manager] Mickey Loomis and [head coach] Sean Payton have the franchise going."

Earlier on Thursday, the Saints officially acquired former Indianapolis cornerback Jason David when the Colts declined to match the restricted free-agent offer sheet to which New Orleans signed him last week. The Saints will surrender a fourth-round pick in this year's draft as compensation for signing David.

Grant teams with right end Will Smith, another former first-round choice, to provide the Saints one of the best outside tandems in the league.

The Saints designated Grant as a franchise player at the outset of the free-agency period, essentially by making him a one-year qualifying offer of $8.64 million. Grant is the first of the league's seven franchise players to reach a contract agreement.

Last month, Grant visited with Tampa Bay officials for two days, but the Bucs never made a contract offer. The Bucs later suggested that the visit was aimed at getting to know Grant a little better in the event he was eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. The long-term contract now precludes that possibility.

By signing Grant to a long-term deal now, before a mid-July deadline, the Saints regain the franchise designation and can use it on another player in the future, if necessary.

A former University of Georgia standout, Grant was a first-round choice in the 2002 draft, the 25th player selected overall that year. An excellent two-way defender who always plays with a big motor and nasty temperment, Grant has appeared in 80 games, all as a starter, and has 349 tackles, 36 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, one interception and 15 pass deflections.

Grant had 10 sacks in 2003 and 10½ in 2004 but slumped to only 8½ over the past two seasons and has been in Orlando much of the offseason working with noted speed coach Tom Shaw to improve his quickness.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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