NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints all-time leading receiver Marques Colston has been informed he'll be released by the only NFL club for which he has played during his 10-year pro career, said a person familiar with the decision says
The person spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the move, which was first reported by ESPN, has not been announced or made official with the league office.
The 32-year-old Colston, a seventh-round draft choice out of Hofstra in 2006, owns Saints receiving records for catches with 711, yards with 9,759 and touchdowns with 72.
Playing through various injuries in recent years, Colston had his least productive season in 2015, with 520 yards and four TDs.
Cutting Colston will provide New Orleans more than $3 million in salary-cap relief.
The 6-foot-4 Colston jelled quickly in his rookie season with quarterback Drew Brees, who was then in his first season with New Orleans. Colston caught 70 passes for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns in 2006, when the Saints, in their first year back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, made a surprising run to the NFC championship game.
Colston had his most productive season in 2007, with 98 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was the second in what would be eight seasons with 900 or more yards receiving, including in 2009, the club's lone championship season, when he caught 70 passes for 1,074 and nine touchdowns.
As recently as the 2014 season, Colston surpassed the 900-yard mark, an indication that, if healthy, he is not that far removed from putting up numbers commensurate with an upper echelon NFL starter.
Last season, Brees routinely spoke of how invaluable he thought Colston was as a leader among the receiving corps and still as a target on the field in clutch situations, even though his overall numbers were down and he was routinely given days off from practice to rest his battered body.
"He is the epitome of a professional," Brees said late last season. "He is such a calming force and he's played so much football. He is really able to communicate those things to those guys just in the way that he knows the nuances of the offense ... His influence is felt even if he is not the one that is necessarily catching the ball. He has been a big impact on the offense and those guys."
Saints coach Sean Payton also was highly complimentary of Colston in mid-December, when the receiver was coming off of a two-touchdown game in a victory at Tampa Bay.
"He has optimized consistency. Looking at the number of milestones that he has hit, he has always been very reliable," Payton said. "He has strong hands in traffic and you know exactly what you are getting in regards to his location catching radius — there are so many things he has been consistent with over his career. He has optimized which you look for in a pro player, especially at the time he has done it."