Photos of Saints wide receiver Marques Colston over the years. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints Photos).
Mailbag Friday is back after a week hiatus for the NFL Combine, and many of you have/had similar concerns. With that in mind, I decided to combine (pun intended) some of your questions, list them together and answer them in one shot if they were really close in nature. That'll allow me to include more questions and, perhaps, prove that I'm actually reading all of them.
Let's crack open the mail for this week…
@haha0951: How long before we see the extension for Drew Brees and Sean Payton?
@jasonpitman10: Why has Drew Brees not restructured his contract to give cap relief to sign defensive players and win again?
@realcolehughes: What do you think Drew's contract extension will be, and how much cap help does that give the Saints?
@GCSaints12: When will Drew sign his extension? Tom Brady and Joe Flacco have already done theirs. Not a good look.
JD:These questions are so close in tone that it seemed natural to combine them. So, here goes:
At the end of the regular season Brees said he would be willing to sign an extension to help provide salary cap relief and General Manager Mickey Loomis said that the team will be exploring all options, including letting Brees' salary remain where it is. I anticipate an extension but let's not forget that these are negotiations; Brees and the team don't have to come to an accord quickly just because outsiders believe they should, especially if there's a wide financial divide. It's pretty easy for fans to say that the future Hall of Famer should be given $35 million-$45 million guaranteed as part of an extension sweetener (Flacco reportedly received $40 million) – and not actually be responsible for providing the $35 million-$45 million – but the man who's responsible for making that financial commitment has to be sure that it's a sound investment. That said, it seems to be a given that it'll get done, that Brees' $30 million cap figure will be lowered to around $20 million, and it'll provide the Saints with enough flexibility to sign an impact free agent. So let's not be panicky about it. Brees and the Saints don't have to move according to the timeline set by Brady and Flacco, they only need to move on a timeline that benefits the Saints and Brees.
Ditto for a Payton extension. The safe assumption is that it'll get done, it'll be quiet and both sides will be happy with it.
@tunalopolis: Will we ever get Jimmy Graham back?
@youcurved: Who the hell decided to trade Jimmy Graham and release Marques Colston? Where does he live?
JD:Folks, I'm not sure how else to address more Jimmy Graham inquiries other than to say, why the continued obsession/fixation? Time to move along, nothing more to see there. Without debate, Graham was a fantastic offensive weapon for the Saints, probably the best pass-catching tight end in the league during his tenure in New Orleans and unquestionably the best pass-catching tight end in franchise history. But were you paying attention to the Saints offense last year, which appeared to show that Graham needed Brees and the Saints offense a lot more than the Saints offense and Brees needed Graham. The Saints finished first in passing offense, second in total offense and eighth in scoring. Seattle, for whatever reason, didn't take off offensively until Graham was injured and lost for the season. In other words, after Graham was traded, the Saints first sounded like Kendrick Lamar ("We gon' be alright"), then went out and proved it after an adjustment period. So, stop pining for Graham. He's gone, the Saints' offense was fine without him and they added two pieces that they desperately needed (center Max Unger and linebacker Stephone Anthony) as a result of the trade.
As for the release of Colston, franchises have to make those kinds of hard decisions every offseason. I'm an unapologetic Colston fan, and always have been and will continue to be. But heartstrings can't be attached to business decisions and, unfortunately, Colston's production declined the last two seasons (it was the least productive two-year stretch of his 10 seasons as a Saint) while the injuries seemed to take more of a toll.
PS. I know the "where does he live?" question was a joke, but you can't do that on Twitter, bro. Not everyone has a sense of humor and takes it as the joke it's intended to be.
@t_elam88:Do you think we will sign Marques Colston back to a one-year deal, veteran minimum?
@biloxijd: Did Colston have the option to retire as a Saint?
@Milissa34: What's the chance of the Saints bringing back Marques Colston at the veteran's minimum salary later on this offseason?
*JD: *I suppose anything is possible, and Colston perhaps could return if the Saints suffered injuries at the receiver position and needed a player who knew the system and immediately could step in and have cohesion with Brees. But the assumption is that both parties have moved on; I'm sure Colston will retire as a Saint, but it might have to be one of those ceremonial, one-day deals. The guess here is that he wants to play this season (otherwise, he simply could have retired rather than be released) because he didn't like finishing out last season injured, he wasn't as productive as he'd hoped to be and he wants to leave with another playoff appearance on his resume. If he's healthy, he feels he can play and hopefully, he'll get his wish, whatever it is.
@thegutsysleeper: Losing Jahri Evans and Marques Colston makes me nervous. These are leaders in the locker room. Do you feel OK with the leadership left?
JD:Leadership won't be a problem because the Saints are convinced they have the right combination of leaders and personalities in the locker room. There are enough vocal guys around (Brees, Zach Strief, Cam Jordan, Kenny Vaccaro, Mark Ingram II) who can tell younger players what is expected, and can demonstrate what is expected. Colston really was the only veteran in the receiver room last season, but Drew Brees looks like he can assume that leadership role (yes, it's only his third season but his level-headedness, intolerance for foolishness and desire to play the game more than talk about it reminds you of Colston), and few can match his work ethic.
@BoyDexterd: Why do we keep trading/letting go of our offensive weapons? Can we keep staying a top performer on that side of the ball?
JD:You trade or let them go because you think it's in the best interest of the team financially and performance-wise, because you're sure you can maintain a high level of production with the players that remain. Look at the Saints' offensive rankings since 2006 – they haven't finished lower than sixth in total offense. Your concern is natural and understandable but so far, if the Saints have proven one thing, it's that the offense will be one of the best in the league.
?@LittleJoeyV:What's more important this year, offensive line or pass rusher?
JD:Offense was first in passing yards, second in total offense, eighth in scoring. Defense was last in points allowed, next to last in yards allowed. I vote pass rusher.
?@tmoswole: Who will be the primary red zone target for Drew Brees this year after the loss of Colston?
JD:You have to remember that Brees threw 32 touchdowns last year, and only four were to Colston. The red zone production was made up by committee; some Cooks, some Willie Snead, some Benjamin Watson, etc. Size-wise, the heir apparent to Colston is receiver Brandon Coleman, and once he learns to make better use of the frame he has been blessed with (6 feet 6, 225 pounds) he could be the physical mismatch that every team craves. But, again, let's remember that the Saints haven't had many problems when it comes to scoring in the past, including last year when Colston had the worst statistical season of his NFL career.
?@JABsteppin: Please tell me the Saints are coming back to The Greenbrier in 2016, for us New England folks to be able to attend!?
JD:The Saints are going back to The Greenbrier in 2016, and you New England folks will be able to attend. See how easy that was? I'll take all credit for the return, and I'll expect you to pick up the dinner tab when you arrive.