Marques Colston: Staying with Saints was worth more than money

Marques Colston said taking a pay cut to remain with the Saints was not a difficult decision. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

METAIRIE, La. -- A combination of loyalty, reality and just plain smart business brought receiver Marques Colston back to the New Orleans Saints this year, even though the 10th-year veteran had to accept a $3.2 million pay cut.

Colston, a former seventh-round draft pick who became the franchise's all-time leader in total touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards, makes it sounds like the choice was easy.

"At this point in my career, it's not necessarily about maximizing every penny of every contract," said Colston, who agreed to a pay cut from $7 million in salary and bonuses to $3.8 million -- plus another $4.6 million cut next year.

"I know for me it came down to, 'What's my priority?'" said Colston, who met with the media for the first time this offseason on Tuesday. "I probably could have went somewhere else and maybe got a little bit more money. But the priority for me was to come back to an organization that I really enjoy playing for. I enjoy coming to work every day and being in this locker room.

"And it's an organization that took a chance on me Day 1. That loyalty means something to me."

Colston, 32, was also being selfish in a way -- wanting to stay put in an offense led by coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees that has been very good to him over the years.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder is on pace to pass the 10,000-yard barrier this season. Colston has 666 career receptions for 9,239 yards and 68 touchdown catches.

"I look at things just from a business standpoint. You look at the position I play, I'm kind of dependent on everyone else along the offense to have success," Colston said. "And just being a football fan, I've seen guys at my position chase every penny and not really have the career or the success that they've been accustomed to. So I always say I'm never gonna be in a hurry to leave a Hall of Fame quarterback.

"I've really never been a person that is driven by outside forces. I'm going to make the decision that's best for me and my family. And time and time again it leads me to here."

Colston's production has dipped a bit in recent years (902 yards, 5 touchdowns last year; 943 and 5 in 2013). But he remains a vital part of the offense.

In fact, he might even be more vital as a red zone and third-down target. That's always been Colston's specialty -- but tight end Jimmy Graham had supplanted him as Brees' go-to guy in those situations before Graham was traded this offseason.

"Marques is my guy, he'll always be my guy," Brees said Tuesday. "We've been here for so long together and he's so dependable, such a professional, such a great person to have on the field, not only from what he brings to us from a productivity standpoint but also in the locker room and in the meeting room. He does everything that needs to be done. I love the way that he works, I love his approach to the game, he's a true pro and a guy that I hope I have the chance to play with for a long time."

Health will be an issue. Colston has been missing a lot of summer practice time, explaining that the team wants to limit his "mileage." Colston has fought through a variety of nagging injuries over the years, but he has only missed one game over the past three seasons and four games over the past six.

Consistency also became an issue last season for Colston -- a rarity for such a dependable receiver. He dropped an estimated 7-to-10 passes, depending on the statistical service. And he lost a key fumble in an overtime loss at Atlanta in Week 1. Colston later said he felt like part of the problem for a team that collapsed to a 7-9 record instead of being part of the solution, which he prides himself on.

The desire to bounce back was also part of Colston's motivation to return.

"I think as a competitor you have to be [disappointed and upset by last season's performance]," Colston said. "Any time you're not playing your best football individually and as a team, if it doesn't bother you then I think that's an issue."

One thing Colston isn't dwelling on, though, is that 10,000-yard milestone. The soft-spoken receiver said he's "just not wired that way."

"It would be a great accomplishment but one that I probably wouldn't really care about 'til the season is over," Colston said. "It's just about winning games for me."