Marques Colston is unquestionably the greatest wide receiver in the near 50-year history of the New Orleans Saints.
Regrettably and unsurprisingly though, his time as a Saint has come to an end. Colston was released today after failing his physical. From a business standpoint, releasing Colston is the correct move to make, while from an emotional position it is a bitter pill to swallow. Colston's number was $5.9 million against the cap for the Saints this season, for a franchise that is as cash-strapped at the salary cap as any in the NFL in 2016, this just didn't make business sense. Colston's release now creates $3.2 million in cap space for the Saints.
Marques Colston's story is one of Saints legend. The 6'4" wide receiver was the final selection in the Saints' 2006 Draft, the 252nd overall pick in the 7th round. The Pennsylvania-born wideout was selected out of the now-defunct Hofstra football program where he was among the school's all-time leading receivers. Many scouts implied Colston would need to bulk out his large frame and move to tight end in order to catch-on in the NFL.
Of course, Colston remained a wide receiver upon his arrival in New Orleans and was paired with then free agent signee Drew Brees to form what would quickly grow into one of the best QB/WR combinations the NFL has ever seen. Here, at the end of his tenure, Marques Colston stands as the Saints All-Time leader in receptions (711), receiving yards (9,759), and touchdowns (72). Despite his enormous success in New Orleans, his last two seasons, especially his 2015 season saw an alarming decrease in his on-field performance. His diminished skill-set alone with his high price tag made this saddening parting of ways all the more necessary.
Nationally, Colston will ultimately be regarded as a very good receiver who had the benefit of a great quarterback getting the ball to him. Absurdly, there are no Pro Bowl selections to point to when advocating for Colston, no outrageous soundbites, or oft-imitated celebrations. He was the consummate professional on and off the field. In most ways, he was the antithesis of what most of us had been trained to be accustomed to from a top-flight wide receiver. He entered the league at the height of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Johnson dominating the stat lines and headlines for his position.
Even on his own team, during his rookie season, Colston lined up alongside "Hollywood" Joe Horn, who did everything in his power to stand alongside the aforementioned superstar receivers, with his skill and flamboyance. Colston's personality stood in stark contrast to these All-Pros and to his own teammate. His stoic and focused nature paired with his tenacious and determined play made his nickname "Quiet Storm" fit him perfectly.
For as much as his physical gifts and stoic nature made Colston a favorite in New Orleans, it was his path to the franchise that made his icon status with the Saints complete. He was an unknown when he was drafted, a player fans hoped would just make any impact for the Saints at best. He was the epitome of the proverbial "diamond in the rough". His value in relation to the price paid to get him was absurdly in the Saints' favor as well as in the fans' favor.
If Colston, not Bush, were the 2nd overall pick in the 2006 Draft, an All-American household name out of USC, he would've been judged by a different set of criteria to this very day. Luckily for Colston, he came out of nowhere, from nowhere. He made his name as a Saint, won respect as a Saint, and became a champion as a Saint. He will always be beloved here.
There is no talk of not living up to any expectations, as he is the expectation now. All Saints late round picks and undrafted free agents are judged against him. Will such-and-such be the next Colston? When will we find the next Colston out of obscurity? Here is the truth. There is now, and always will be, only one Marques Colston. To burden any other player with those expectations would only do a disservice to that individual. Colston was the complete package, who came to a franchise that needed him at the opportune time.
We've watched nearly all of the beloved champion Saints move on, season after season. Reggie Bush, Devery Henderson, Scott Fujita, Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Lance Moore, Pierre Thomas, all these players and more, all beloved, but this one hurts a little more than the rest. Marques represented the best of the Saints and much like his former teammate Deuce McAllister before him, Colston will remain an ambassador for the Saints long after his departure.
We are all proud to have watched Marques Colston represent the Saints and New Orleans. Thank you Marques, we will see you next in the Saints Hall of Fame.