Marques Colston, our 11th-ranked free agent in the 2012 class, isn't going to hit the market after all, as the Saints reportedly reached a five-year deal with their top wideout, just hours before free agency was scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
CBSSports.com's Saints Rapid Reporter Larry Holder confirms the news, as first reported by Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com. According to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, Colston's deal is worth up to $40 million total, with "just under half of it" in guaranteed money.
Colston, a seventh-round pick by the Saints in the 2006 NFL Draft, has played in all but eight games since being drafted, and topped 1,000 receiving yards in all but one year (2008, when he started just six games).
"Since we drafted Marques in 2006, he's been everything that we are looking for in a New Orleans Saint as a player and a person," General Manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement released by the team. "His combination of production, work ethic and reliability speaks for itself. He has proudly represented our team both on the field and in the community. Credit goes to Marques for wanting to get this deal done before free agency started. He's been a major part of our success and we're excited that he will continue to be an integral part of our team for years to come.”
The Saints previously brought in Randy Moss for a workout, and there was some thought that they'd move on from Colston if they landed Moss. But Randy ended up signing with the 49ers on Monday night.
So for the Saints, this was a critical move. They were forced to use their franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees, who isn't exactly thrilled about the fact. (Or perhaps you prefer "livid"?)
Colston works perfectly in that offense, maxing out Brees ability to exploit seam routes, without being a "true" No. 1 wide receiver. The Saints need him, and he really needs the Saints.
"This was important to me, to be back with this team in this situation," Colston said in a statement released by the team. "I was not looking to chase free agency; it was more important for me to be back in our program, a program we have been building and a program I believe in. The Saints have been loyal to me from the beginning and I want to thank my agent Joel Segal and Saints GM Mickey Loomis for getting this deal done before free agency. Now it is time to get back to work and win some more rings."
Plus, if New Orleans expects Brees to get back to the bargaining table, they're going to want to avoid losing all his favorite toys on offense. Plus, with the bounty scandal potentially laying waste to the Saints depth chart on defense for a few games, New Orleans is going to need all the offense it can get.
Colston's signing also means that the previously stacked wide-receiver market is suddenly getting a little thinned out.
Colston's deal, along with a number of other franchise tags (Wes Welker, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson), contracts (Stevie Johnson) and restricted free agent tags (Mike Wallace), means that the only truly elite wideout who'll hit the market at 4 p.m. ET is Vincent Jackson. He's going to make a big old pile of money as a result.
Colston needs just 84 receptions and three touchdown catches to become the Saints all-time leader in both those categories. With eight total touchdowns, he'll pass Deuce McAllister's team record of 55 in that category. Colston's receiving total of 6,240 yards is the sixth-highest in the NFL in that time.