How much will the Saints miss LG Carl Nicks?
An interesting question was posed to me on Twitter asking about the effect of Carl Nicks on both the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Believe it or not, I think that both teams win in this situation, and the good folks over at WWL TV agree with me—at least about the Saints.
According to one NFL statistical website, in 2011 the Saints ran behind Nicks 71 times, fourth-most in the NFL. The average gain of 4.41 yards was 11th-best in the NFL.
According to the same website, Baltimore (where Grubbs played previously), ran the ball behind the big left guard 94 times, more than any other team in the NFL. And the 4.76 yards per carry ranked as 5th-best in the league.
But run-blocking statistics don't tell the entire story. According to Pro Football Focus, Nicks was the second-rated pass-blocking offensive guard in the NFL last year. Grubbs came in at No. 30 on the list. For a team like the Saints who throw the ball a lot, this isn't necessarily great news.
Should the Saints have spent the money to keep Carl Nicks or did they do the right thing?
Since Grubbs came at quite the bargain compared to Nicks, however, the Saints will find a way to deal with the drop-off in pass protection.
On the Tampa Bay side of things, adding Nicks is even better.
Now that Nicks will play left guard in Tampa Bay, Jeremy Zuttah will move to center. Zuttah ranked No. 36 on the Pro Football Focus list for pass-blocking efficiency. Both Zuttah and Nicks allowed two sacks last year, but Zuttah allowed 21 total pressures while Nicks allowed just 12.
That means Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman may have more time to throw the ball in 2012. With more time, Freeman might make better decisions and not force the ball into traffic as much as he did in 2011 when he threw 22 interceptions.
Zuttah was a much better run blocker for the Buccaneers, where he ranked ninth among guards who took at least half the team's snaps in PFF's run block rating. However, Nicks ranked a better No. 4 on the list.
Not only will Nicks be an improvement in pass protection, which is music to the ears of Freeman, but LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin will enjoy the improved hole opening blocks as well.
Taking the contract differential into account, both the Saints and the Buccaneers benefit from Nicks leaving New Orleans and signing with Tampa Bay. Grubbs should fill in adequately for the Saints, and Nicks will be a huge improvement for the Buccaneers.
The only loser might be the Baltimore Ravens, who lost Grubbs and will have to use Bobbie Williams at left guard.