This is the 45th in a series of scouting reports on key players who will become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed before then.
News: Colston, who signed a contract extension with the Saints before the 2008 season, could be on the verge of hitting the open market for the first time in his career. He's one of the top potential free agents at his position, but he's not the first priority, and may not even be the No. 2 priority, for the Saints this offseason. The team has been focused on trying to work out a deal with QB Drew Brees, who received the franchise tag when no long-term contract was finalized by the March 5 deadline to use the tag.
Notes: A six-year veteran, Colston, who will turn 29 in June, was not a highly touted prospect coming out of Hofstra. The Saints took a flier on him with the fourth-to-last pick in the 2006 draft, and he quickly moved up the depth chart, earning a starting job and setting a league record for most receptions in a player's first two seasons (168). He's exceeded 1,000 yards receiving in all but one season, including 2011, when he made 80 catches for 1,143 yards (14.3-yard average) and eight touchdowns despite missing two games while recovering from a broken collarbone. He missed five games in '08, which is the only season in which he did not surpass 1,000 yards. He has led the team in receiving yardage on one of the league's more potent offenses in four of his six seasons but has never been named to the Pro Bowl.
Positives: Great size and strength. Knows how to box out cornerbacks. Deceptively quick. Strong hands and terrific body control. Poses matchup problems. No fear of going over the middle. Plays physical. Excellent leaping ability. Makes plays in traffic. Tough. Willing to play through pain. Good production. Unselfish.
Negatives: Doesn't have the speed to separate from defensive backs. Doesn't burst off the line. Will occasionally take his eye off the ball and have some drops. Has history of knee problems. Underwent microfracture surgery before 2011 season to repair cartilage in his right knee and underwent a similar procedure on his left knee in '09.
Risk factor: As far as receivers go, Colston is about as steady and dependable as they come. Away from Drew Brees and a weapon-laden offense, though, he could find the sledding tougher. Combine that with his injury history, and there is a moderate risk in signing him to a long-term deal. The Saints would like to keep him, but this could be Colston's last opportunity to hit the jackpot before age and wear and tear catch up to him, and giving New Orleans a hometown discount probably doesn't sound too appealing to him. For the Saints, the element of toughness that Colston brings to the receiving corps could be hard to replace.
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