In the NFL offseason, rumors abound quicker than a mouse smells the cheese and makes his way to it. So any rumor that comes up should be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless a disturbing rumor that has made its name known in wake of the new Orleans Saints' divisional playoff loss is that Carl Nicks may not re-sign with the team this offseason.
Initial thoughts cannot always be trusted, as they are often based on emotions. But my initial thought when I heard that was pretty much, "Oh crap!"
There's absolutely no way under any star system, or on any planet, that the New Orleans Saints can afford to lose the player many analysts consider the best left guard in football.
The running game which came alive in 2011 would surely regress. And Jermon Bushrod would lose the comfort blanket that Nicks provided him in pass protection.
Don't get me wrong, the Saints would figure out a solution going forward. Sean Payton and whoever is coaching the offense next season (more on that at a later time) will be able to plug the holes and figure out a way to keep Drew Brees protected.
Some may say the Saints shouldn't take any chances and franchise Brees. That is silly. There is zero chance he and the Saints do not come up with a reasonable deal that both sides can agree upon.
I would say the same with Marques Colston. Colston is much too valuable to lose in free agency. And truth be told, he is unlikely find a suitor who will pay above what New Orleans can offer him.
Some teams may match it, but the football player in Colston ought to come out, realizing the chemistry he and Brees, and the rest of the offense share cannot be matched anywhere.
Who would you franchise-tag (if anyone) is you were the Saints?
Now to Nicks. His situation is more tricky than Brees' or Colston's. While those players should be offered contracts no one else is going to be able to match, the Saints cannot offer the same kind of deal right now to Nicks.
And teams are going to do everything they can to snatch up a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro guard who is just now coming into his prime. Guards don't require the kind of money a quarterback does, but a player the caliber of Nicks is going to require a deal larger than the one Colston promises to receive.
For that reason, the Saints would be wise to give those deals to Colston and Brees. With Nicks, the franchise tag would mean he either plays for New Orleans next season or doesn't play at all.
Yes, the slapping of a franchise tag has irritated players to no end since its inception into the league. But perhaps the Saints can convince Nicks they are applying it in good faith that they will do everything they are able to do to negotiate a long-term contract.
Mickey Loomis and Co. can guarantee Nicks everything under the sun, so long as he takes one simple step—sign the franchise tag. They will give him the fairest long-term deal possible, but they just need time. There are two other crucial deals to get done. And they need to figure out what the status of some other players on this team may be.
To that end, the Saints really need to figure out if they want to go with Mike Nolan who would bring a 3-4 defense, which would actually fit the skills of Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin quite well. If New Orleans goes in that direction those are two more contracts which need to get done this offseason. If they stay in the 4-3, those two players become expendable.
The Saints offense simply wouldn't be the same without him. Continuity is the key to a good offensive line. With him they have the opportunity to return all five starters to that unit.
Without him, the Saints may be looking at a unit who will struggle early in 2012 trying to find a solution on the left side.
Make no mistake, this is a football team that is built around its offense. If any chink in that armor is found, the entire team could quickly fall apart. And no one wants to see that happen.