On Tuesday it was reported that the New Orleans Saints are planning to release receiver Marques Colston after 10 seasons with the team. He is the leading receiver in franchise history and 49th overall for every NFL receiver, which is even more impressive when you consider that he was a seventh round pick; Colston is one of only two rookies in history to post a 1,000-yard season as a seventh rounder.
The other is Bob Hayes, who is in the Hall of Fame.
Colston likely ends up in the Hall of "All-Time Fantasy Value Steals" (I can still vividly recall him coming to prominence in 2006 as a "tight end" with the team that nobody expected would maintain his early season production) but as a guy whose entire career has been spent with the record-breaking Drew Brees, his overall legacy will always be in question.
From 2006 to 2012, he was ninth in receiving yards and tied for second in receiving touchdowns. He had the reliability of a tight end but the versatility of a number one receiver. However, if another big receiver had been able to switch spots with Colston during Brees's prime, would that guy be able to say the same? It's probably not that simple because Colston did what he did while Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson (two guys who were expected to be better) were super inconsistent. That being said, Willie Snead, an undrafted free agent who is easily now the best player to ever come out of Ball State, just had 984 yards for the Saints. Could Colston replicate any of his success with another team?
That's what many fans are asking themselves right now, including Seattle Seahawks fans that know Pete Carroll has long been searching for the big receiver who has evaded him like Marshawn Lynch avoids questions.
Colston is 6'4, 225 pounds, and two seasons ago had 902 yards for New Orleans. While the Seahawks rarely sign players over 30, they do have some examples: Cary Williams, Fred Jackson, Kevin Williams, Robert Gallery, Atari Bigby, and Raheem Brock -- and those are just the guys who made the team. Does Colston fit in there as a veteran who could help Seattle or are fans just reminiscing too hard on some historic fantasy wins and ignoring the cold hard truth that he's about to be 33?
Let's take a closer look at where Colston is at and where he's probably headed.
Over the last two seasons, spanning his age 31 and age 32 years, Colston averaged 49 yards per game and 13.7 yards per catch while missing only three games due to injury. He's been healthy but his production has clearly dipped since gaining 1,154 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2012. In order to start to predict what Colston could do at age 33, I compared him to some other receivers who averaged between 45 and 55 yards per game at this same age (31-32) with roughly 14 YPC.
Here are a few that have played in the somewhat-modern era:
Deion Branch, Plaxico Burress, Qadry Ismail, Jabar Gaffney, Curtis Conway, and Rocket Ismail. (Call me surprised-to-see-that-the-Ismail-brothers-had-remarkably-similar-careers.)
I think Colston is clearly better than all of these players and that won't be completely ignored. Burress has a case but actually didn't play from age 32-33 because of legal reasons, only returning at age 34 to have 612 yards and eight touchdowns for the Jets.
Rocket, Qadry, and Gaffney all retired after their age 32 seasons, something that Colston could consider as the summer wears on. (Gaffney actually barely played at age 32 as it was.) Conway came back for age 33 and had 38 catches for 403 yards and three touchdowns with the 49ers before retiring. Branch had 16 catches for 145 yards and zero scores for the Patriots before also retiring.
So all together, none of these players besides Burress had an impact after 32, and with Burress he had two years off beforehand, then was a tiny bit productive for one season.
But Colston is better than these players, right? So what other comparisons can be made for a player about as productive as him at age 32?
Santana Moss had 584 yards and four touchdowns with the Redskins at age 32, then came back for 573 yards and eight touchdowns the next season. Muhsin Muhammad had 750 yards and four touchdowns at age 32, then 863 yards and five touchdowns at age 33, plus 923 yards and five touchdowns at age 35. That brings up a question of some post-32 warriors.
Jerry Rice had 9,620 yards after 32, which would rank 50th all-time. (Colston has barely 100 more yards than that in his entire career.)
Cris Carter had three Pro Bowl seasons after 32, but he never showed a decline like Colston has over the last three years. Carter was consistently good since age 26, plus he had a later start in his career as a full-time receiver.
Steve Smith experienced a lull at 31, but that was with Jimmy Clausen. When he had Cam Newton the next season at age 32, Smith had 1,349 yards and seven touchdowns. Colston just played with Drew Brees, like usual. Smith also had a later-career surge as a full-time receiver. Colston has been a starter from the beginning.
Reggie Wayne was productive at 33 and 34 but was also an All-Pro at age 32. Colston did not play well last season.
Of course there would be the advantage to Colston of playing with Russell Wilson, but it's tough to say that he's going to an "upgraded offense" from what he had in New Orleans. Colston would be going from being Brees's fourth-favorite target last season (he had only two more targets than running back Mark Ingram, despite Ingram playing in one fewer game) to becoming Wilson's ... fourth-favorite target also? All Colston would provide is a different "look" than Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, or Paul Richardson/Jermaine Kearse/whoever else may or may not be in Seattle next year.
Colston could basically play the "Chris Matthews 2014" role ... while still being about as productive as Chris Matthews was probably. And at a much higher cost.
There is no reason for the Seahawks to "kick the tires" on Colston. He is probably at or near the end of his career and may not even be an upgrade over some project receiver they could get in undrafted free agency that is also over 6'3 but costs $420,000 or less if you keep him on the practice squad.
Still, it doesn't mean that they won't look into it if Colston is still available in July.
Seattle has signed 30-plus players like Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, and Antoine Winfield. None of them made the team. Braylon Edwards did, barely, and made eight catches. (Can you believe that Edwards was 29 that year?) It's possible that Colston just wants to make the playoffs, and play with Jimmy Graham again (we also hope to play with Jimmy Graham again), and says he'll take the veteran minimum and is willing to be released if that's what it comes to. However, none of that will change the fact that Colston's decent games are probably all behind him.
They could always try, but why? They're trying to build a team that competes for the Super Bowl again, not one that brings back good memories of your 2010 fantasy team.