This is the 48th in a series of scouting reports on key players who will become free agents March 13.
News: The Saints wouldn't allow arguably the best guard in the game — still in his prime — to hit the open market, would they? It appears that they will. Nicks doesn't expect to be back — he told WWL radio last week that in his mind, he pretty much is gone from New Orleans. He was a leading candidate for the franchise tag before the Saints applied it to QB Drew Brees, but the team apparently has not made Nicks a contract offer and Nicks said in his radio interview that he believes the Saints and his agent, Ben Dogra, are not talking. Nicks intends to make the most of his chance to cash in. He wants to become the highest-paid guard in the league, topping the $8.5 million per year the Patriots are paying Logan Mankins. The Cowboys, Bears and Buccaneers are among the teams rumored to be interested in Nicks.
Notes: Despite having first-round talent, Nicks fell to the fifth round of the draft because of character concerns, but the Saints took a chance on him and are thrilled that they did. He's developed into one of the league's dominant offensive linemen. Nicks, New Orleans' left guard, has started all but the first three games of his career (67 straight starts, including the playoffs), playing opposite another of the game's top guards, Jahri Evans, who signed a seven-year, $56.7 million contract (a record high for the position) with the Saints in 2010. Nicks has been named to two straight Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.
Positives: Can dominate physically. A 6-5, 343-pounder with rare athleticism for his size. Great arm length. Good feet and balance — has the agility of a left tackle. Strong hands. Powerful at the point of attack. Generates movement. Durable. Rarely penalized. Has allowed only 8½ sacks over the course of his four seasons, according to STATS LLC.
Negatives: Technique could use refining. Has to keep weight under control, and conditioning must be monitored. A lack of discipline and a questionable work ethic were issues in college, and there is a chance they could return if a fire is not lit under him.
Risk factor: Nicks is worthy of becoming one of the league's highest-paid guards, and it will be money well spent if he continues to play at the level he has for the past few seasons. There will be a moderate risk given the financial commitment he'll demand in a long-term deal, but Nicks is relatively young and healthy, and the problems he had in college appear to be in the rearview mirror.
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