Saints and OG Evans come to terms on a 7-year deal

A day after bringing back safety Darren Sharper, the Saints were spending even more money on Wednesday, as the team inked offensive guard Jahri Evans to a huge seven-year deal. The deal makes the former fourth-round draft choice the highest-paid interior lineman in the NFL.

Evans, who was both an All-Pro and Pro Bowler last season, agreed with New Orleans on a contract worth nearly $57 million. A person familiar with the contract told The Associated Press the deal was for $56.7 million, with $19 million guaranteed. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the financial terms were not disclosed by the club.

Evans’ Philadelphia-based agent, Jerrold Colton, confirmed the deal was the richest contract ever given to an NFL guard.

Evans was a restricted free agent, meaning the Saints owned his rights after a deadline passed for him to sign offer sheets from other teams. However, Evans stayed away from New Orleans’ first volunteer offseason workouts while general manager Mickey Loomis and Colton worked on a long-term deal.

Loomis announced the length of the deal on Wednesday and head coach Sean Payton said the 6-foot-4, 318-pound guard earned it.

“It’s important to recognize, with what we do offensively, and the quarterback stepping up in the pocket, to have that size and talent inside the pocket I think is huge for Drew Brees and I think Drew would say the same thing,” Payton said. “He’s played since his rookie season at an extremely high level and what we’ve been able to accomplish as a team, offensively, his impact inside of the pocket, what he does, reflects a deal like that.”

The Saints allowed 20 sacks last season, fourth fewest in the NFL. Now with Evans on the line for a long time to come, protecting Brees should be still one of the main reasons the Saints will be a Super Bowl contender again in 2010.

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