WR Marques Colston signed a new five year, $40 million deal just hours before the NFL's free agency opened on Tuesday afternoon.
Instead of hitting the open market as one of the top receivers, Colston accepted the contract which features $19 million guaranteed.
Hours later, ex-Colts WR Pierre Garcon signed a new $42.5 million, five year contract with $21.5 million guaranteed, assuring the Saints they had a bargain of a deal.
With only a reported $6 million in salary cap space to start the day, the Saints are tapped. They have not yet released any players, though that is a forgone conclusion with free agents and draft picks to sign.
In order to fit Colston under an unusually tight 2012 cap, the deal is expected to be back-loaded, as the league expects the salary cap to grow significantly in the future. With the six-year veteran minimum at $685,000 and $19 million prorated over five seasons, Colston cap hit could be as low as $4.485 million for 2012.
Colston owns the longest play in Saints Super Bowl history with a 27-yard catch down to near the goal line in the final minutes of the second quarter, and led the Saints in receiving that day with seven catches for 83 yards.
Colston, who will turn 29 this season, is the first big Saint free agent to sign anywhere. Meanwhile, G Carl Nicks, WR Robert Meachem, and Port Allen, La. native CB Tracy Porter, also veterans of Super Bowl XLIV, are catching a lot of attention in the first few hours of the open market.
In order to sign any other free agents, the Saints will have to announce cuts or more contract re-structures.
Despite two microfracture knee surgeries, Colston rebounded for 80 catches, 1143 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. Among his season highlights were two fourth-quarter touchdowns in Tennessee to beat the Titans, three huge third-down receptions against the Falcons, and a seven-catch, 145-yard, two-score performance against the Carolina Panthers in the finale.
Synonymous with the phrase "surprise seventh-round draft pick," Colston was an immediate impact for the NFC runner-up 2006 Saints, even though he was the fourth-to-last player drafted. 81 picks prior the Saints had drafted another receiver, Mike Hass from Oregon. According to an NFL release today, Colston is one of only seven players in history with 1000 yards receiving in five of his first six NFL seasons.
The Saints released this quote from Colston, "The Saints have been loyal to me from the beginning…Now it is time to get back to work and win some more rings.” In a sea of bad news and negative emotions surrounding the team, Colston's announced contract was a relief for the Saints.
QB Drew Brees wrote on twitter, "Can't tell you how excited I am for Marques Colston. A champion. Nobody deserves it more. Happy for my guy"
TE Jimmy Graham wrote on twitter, "Marques Colston has been a big brother to me and a silent leader...excited he's back!"
WR Lance Moore wrote on twitter, "Congratulations to one of my saint partners in crime Marques Colston on his new deal. Very well deserved especially w the new little one!!!"