2012 Offseason Priorities: Left Guard Is More Important Than Wide Receiver

There seems to be a question that is making its way through the “Who Dat Nation” this offseason.  Everyone knows that this summer is going to be a wild one, as free agency and the NFL Draft have respectively brought solid names into the organization in the past.  This year, though, may look a little different.  The key this offseason won’t be bringing in the next Darren Sproles; it will be holding on to the quality players who already exist on the roster.  Guys like Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Carl Nicks, Tracy Porter, Robert Meachem, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Aubrayo Franklin could all see themselves in other cities once training camp opens up, meaning that the Saints’ front office will surely be busy over the course of the next few months.

It is without a doubt that some of the names from the list above will remain with the Black and Gold in 2012.  General Manager Mickey Loomis has already stated that he expects Brees to be back next season, as does the entire city of New Orleans.  Let’s face facts:  he’s more than just the “face of the franchise” at this point.  Brees is essentially the face of the “Big Easy,” and to think that he won’t be signed to a long-term deal is simply preposterous.  "[Drew is] a player that we value a lot, more than any other player in the history of our team," Loomis told the Times-Picayune.   That quote says it all about his future with the club.

According to reports, Brees may get the franchise tag this offseason.  Is that an insult to Brees?  Loomis had something to say on that subject matter.  “When you franchise someone, you say, ‘Hey, you're the best player we have' -- or the best player we have that doesn't have a contract. That shouldn't be an insult to anyone. Now, that may not be their desired course of action, but it's not an insult."  There’s an answer for you.

But what about the other guys who could be leaving New Orleans this summer?  According to Jeff Duncan at the Times-Picayune, Nicks should be the first guy to consider resigning.  “Priorities after [Drew Brees], IMO, are: Nicks, Colston, Porter, Meachem, Rogers, Dunbar, Franklin,” Duncan said on Twitter.

So that is what we are here to discuss; who is the more valuable player to sign, Nicks or Colston?

If you ask the average fair-weather fan (or even your local bandwagoner), he/she would most likely say Colston.  I mean c’mon, Colston is the magical seventh-round Draft choice who shocked the world and became the top receiver on the most potent offense in the country!  How could the Saints ever let him walk?

For the answer, look no further than the squad that resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Eagles, otherwise known as the “Dream Team” this past offseason, thought that they had grabbed every weapon available in the arsenal.  They signed a top-of-the-line CB to a multi-year deal, grabbed two solid DEs to help with the defensive pass rush, gave a multi-year contract to a revitalized superstar QB, picked up a former National Championship winner to be the backup QB, added a former “Wildcat” mastermind from Miami to be the backup RB and added a decent long-named DB from Arizona among other things.  They were supposed to be “the greatest show on turf.”  But where did they go wrong?  They failed to truly upgrade in the trenches on offense, and the result was an abysmal 8-8 season.

According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles’ offensive line ranked 26th in the league in terms of run blocking; in pass protection, they allowed a sack 5.9% of the time on offense.  Compare that to the Saints, whose offensive line was ranked first in the league, and you can see why solid offensive line play contributes to overall success.  New Orleans’ O-line was also solid in pass protection, ranking third in the NFL by allowing a sack only 4.4% of the time.

Now imagine if the Saints lost Nicks, who is regarded as one of the best LGs in all of football.  Replacing him would cause the front office to have to scramble for a new option, and all of this would be done due to the fact that the organization decided to keep a WR instead.

Besides, who can deny that Drew Brees ultimately has the same effect on his squad mates that Peyton Manning does in Indianapolis?  Do you honestly believe that guys like Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon would be common NFL names if it weren’t for the older Manning brother?  The same goes for the Saints’ receiving corp, as Meachem, Devery Henderson, Colston and Lance Moore have all greatly benefitted from Brees’ presence.  By no way is that a knock on each of these receivers’ individual talents.  I’m just being brutally honest.

In the end, I cannot predict which direction the front office will move in.  For all we know, the men upstairs will find a way to keep them all, however expensive that may be.  If it comes down to either Colston or Nicks, though, the choice should be fairly obvious.  Teams that succeed in the NFL win in the trenches first.  Don’t forget that.

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