Vargas: Colston keeps working, though he knows tough decisions lie ahead

Saints receiver Marques Colston has no delusions about the business he’s in.

The 31-year-old veteran knows he’s going to be expensive over the final three seasons of his contract with New Orleans: He’s owed $5.6 million, $7 million and $7.8 million in salary and bonuses in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He knows how much the team could save if at any moment it decided to release him, very unlikely this season but more feasible thereafter.

Colston saw what occurred in March to receiver Lance Moore, his Saints teammate of eight years and fellow Super Bowl XLIV champion, among a handful cut to create salary-cap space ahead of free agency.

“On a yearly basis, there’s tough personnel decisions that have to be made upstairs (in the front office),” Colston said Wednesday after the second practice of the Saints’ latest minicamp in Metairie. “That’s just the business we’re in.”

Yet Colston said that knowledge isn’t about to prompt him to switch up his approach to his job, one that’s led him to be the all-time franchise leader in receptions (607), receiving yards (8,337) and receiving touchdowns (63) after the Saints chose him fourth-to-last overall in the 2006 draft. And if ever it came down to it, that’s what would turn one of those “tough personnel decisions” with Colston into an agonizing one.

Take last year. Was he so inclined, Colston had plenty to gripe about.

He battled foot soreness throughout the campaign. He watched as teammate Jimmy Graham attracted the lion’s share of quarterback Drew Brees’ attention and topped the Saints with 1,215 receiving yards and the NFL with 16 touchdown grabs.

Was he so inclined, Colston had plenty to gloat about.

He surpassed the franchise mark for catches with a touchdown grab in a Week 1 win against Atlanta. He surpassed the franchise marks for receiving yards and yards from scrimmage in a Week 10 victory over Dallas.

But though other No. 1 receivers in the NFL might have done so, Colston never vented to reporters as he produced the second-fewest regular-season receiving yards (943), third-fewest catches (75) and what was tied for the fewest touchdowns (5) in his career in 2013.

He never used the foot as an excuse, though it didn’t aid his cause.

“A lot of his catches are taking place between the numbers and there are big guys in there,” Brees said Wednesday. “He goes through a lot of punishment throughout the season, so by the end ... I know he’s hurting pretty good.”

Meanwhile, before last year’s Dallas game, Colston refused to chat with the media about his looming achievements. He instead memorably opted to publish the briefest of written statements through the Saints’ press office, part of it reading, “My focus right now is on our team week to week and how I can contribute to us continuing to win football games.”

His tune hadn’t changed Wednesday.

“My singular focus is to win games, and that’s really it,” Colston said in the course of discussing Moore and what that could potentially foreshadow for him. “All you can really do as a player is take full advantage of every opportunity with the singular focus to win games.”

Tight end Ben Watson, who’s been in the NFL since 2004, said: “He’s a great example for veterans as well as younger players on how to be a professional. ... That right there is what playing pro ball is about.”

With his ninth season in the league and New Orleans inching closer, Colston can still position himself where Brees can find him even if he improvises and doesn’t run a route precisely as it’s drawn.

“There’s ... guys that are guidelines guys, like, ‘Here’s ... these guidelines as to how this route is to be run, but if you feel something or see something and you’re on the same page as the quarterback, then you by all means do it,’” Brees said. “Marques is a guidelines guy.”

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Colston remains able to line up outside or in the slot to be considered open by Brees even when he’s technically covered.

“There’s ... a place where I can throw Marques Colston the ball where most players can’t get it,” Brees said.

Furthermore, five months after the Saints were eliminated from the divisional playoffs, Colston’s foot pain was gone, allowing him to fully participate in every offseason practice open to journalists so far.

“I feel really good,” Colston said. “I’ve been able to get out here with really no restrictions.”

No, he’s not trying to make any future Saints personnel decisions that one day may involve him tougher. That would just be a side effect at least nine years in the works.