NFL Free Agency: Marques Colston Re-Signs with Saints, Teams Vie for Jackson

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NFL Free Agency: Marques Colston Re-Signs with Saints, Teams Vie for Jackson
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New Orleans star quarterback Drew Brees will get his "go-to-guy" back. Now the Saints need to take care of Brees, who is unhappy with the team's decision to put an exclusive rights franchise tag on him.

The New Orleans re-signed wide receiver Marques Colston to a five-year deal, just hours before free agency was set to begin.  According to John Clayton of ESPN, the contract is worth around $40 million, including $19 million in guarantees. 

The signing of Colston should make San Diego free agent Vincent Jackson an even hotter commodity for teams in need of a big target.  Colston is 6'4", 225 pounds, while Jackson has an inch and a few pounds on him, at 6'5", 230.

The move by the Saints to secure Colston seemed unlikely just a few days ago, but their apparent interest gained momentum, as reports surfaced that team executives were working feverishly to re-sign their physical slot receiver.

New Orleans is not likely to be much of a player in free agency, and with just $7 million of cap space remaining, Colston will undoubtedly earn a low base salary in 2012. Colston, who turns 29 in June, will be the same age as Jackson when the season begins.

According to Yahoo Sports' Jason Cole, Jackson's top suitors appear to be Tampa Bay, Chicago and the Buffalo Bills.  The Buccaneers who failed to sign a top free agent wideout last year, have the most cap space with a whopping $44 million to spend.  The Bills are next at $30.8 million and the Bears have approximately $30 million.

All three teams have the opportunity to take advantage of an additional $1.6 million that 30 NFL teams were rewarded, as a result of a penalty enforced on the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.  The teams were notified Monday that they will incur fines for front-loading contracts in an uncapped year (2010).  Dallas and Washington made those moves to save money over the last two seasons.  

"Citing sources, ESPN.com reported the Cowboys will lose $10 million and the Redskins $36 million from the projected $120.6 million salary cap." NFL.com said teams were "warned not to push spending into the uncapped year as a way of getting around future salary caps."

Washington's fine will most definitely hurt its efforts to court Jackson, who will command between $10 million and $12 million per year.  The Redskins and Cowboys must pay back at least half of the money they overspent.  That leaves Washington with just $17 million to spend in this year's free agency pool.

Joe Versage is a NFL Correspondent at Bleacher Report.  He previously covered the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter.  Follow him on Twitter at: @dcjoev.  

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