You know how after the Saints won the Super Bowl following the 2009 season the offseason seemed to last 10 minutes? We partied, watched Tracy Porter's interception 5000 times, partied some more, and then the 2010 season started.
The 2011 offseason is going to be the exact opposite. Watching the Packers get trounced by the Giants was the cherry on top of the rancid sundae of a loss to the 49ers. Welcome to the longest off season we've had in Saintsville in a long time. And the most important since Sean Payton and Drew Brees cane to town in 2006.
The Saints roster has remained intact the past two seasons in part because of the uncapped year following 2009 and the lockout following 2010. They won't be as fortunate this year.
GM Mickey Loomis has decisions to make on three core guys who will be free agents (Drew Brees, Carl Nicks, Marques Colston) plus Tracy Porter, Robert Meachem, Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin. He'll have about 30 million in salary cap space to spend.
Brees isn't going anywhere but his contract is the key to how much flexibility the Saints have. In a weird way Brees is in a really tough spot. He can rightfully almost throw out any number and it's justified.
Don't kid yourself; Drew Brees is the life of the party the last six years known as the New Orleans Saints. The problem is the more money he gets the harder it become to resign Nicks and Colston.
Brees might love making 23 million a year but it won't be as fun if some rookie is playing guard instead of Nicks and Brees is getting hit more often.
My guess is the Brees' yearly salary won't be something crazy but the guaranteed money will be. Would it be a huge risk for the Saints to guarantee 60 or 80 million of the contract? Sure but they bet on Brees before and if Brees isn't healthy the Saints are screwed no matter how much they are obligated to pay him.
If Brees gets done before free agency starts, then that means they can put the franchise tag or transition tag on either Nicks or Colston but they can't tag both.
So the question becomes who would get more interest on the open market?
Carl Nicks without question. He's 26 and the only guard in football better is his teammate Jahri Evans.
Teams will be at his house at 12:01 when free agency starts.
The Atlanta Falcons 2011 season can be summed in one sentence, 'Fourth and stuffed.' Nicks would probably help the interior of the offensive line and they would weaken the Saints. In free agency that's as good as it gets. When Carl Nicks gets tagged I promise not to say I told you so.
So Marques Colston will get to hit the open market and the question becomes will somebody pay him top five receiver money?
It's not the certainty you might think. Colston does have five 1,000 yard seasons but he will be 29 next year, has had three knee surgeries, and teams haven't some much interest in Saints receivers on the open market.
Devery Henderson and Lance Moore have both hit the market since Brees arrived and the Saints got them both signed at very reasonable offers.
Colston is better than both but is a team going to pay him 10 million a year to be their #1 receiver? Does he make the Saints great or is he great because of Brees? Hard to know because we've never seen Brees without him except for a stretch in 2008 when he had an injured hand.
Even if the Saints manage to sign Colston and Nicks I highly doubt they'd have enough money left to keep Tracy Porter and Robert Meachem.
Meachem's five year career has been ok but if you were running an NFL team would you be excited to tell your fans, 'Our receiver issue is solved because we are going to pay Meachem 25 million the next four years!' Not likely so he'll be back at a reasonable price.
I'll be stunned if Tracy Porter is back. Why? NFL teams pay mediocre corners millions more than they should. Porter will get inducted to the Saints Hall of Fame for 2009 but if I were the Saints I'd pass when he tells them Buffalo just offered him 35 million for five years. AND THEY WILL.
Think of me when you say, 'Porter got THAT MUCH FOR HOW LONG?'
Here is the biggest question you have to ask yourself about the Saints resigning Brees, Nicks, and Colston: Am I ok with Saints investing almost everything on offense and for the next three to five years hoping the defense does juuust enough to win another Super Bowl? They nearly did it Saturday.
If the Saints resign all three that's what they will be because there won't be any money left for defense. We'll just have to hope they hit the lottery like they did with Darren Sharper in 2009.
Hoping the defense gets improved with the money they save if Colston or Nicks leave doesn't appeal to me at all. Remember kids, hope is not a plan or guarantee. The Saints should live or die with offense.
New York Giants (+2.5) at San Francisco: All the experts remember about the Saints-49ers games is the Saints horrible start and the last four minutes. They seem to have forgotten the middle where the Saints outscored the 49ers 24-6.
The Giants will pressure Alex Smith without blitzing and if they shutdown Frank Gore things get ugly. The only way the Giants lose is turnovers and I'm guessing they won't commit five like the Saints.
By the way, if the Saints add a defensive lineman who can get 8 sacks their defense will be 20 percent better in 2012. The Giants have four of such guys and they'll make Alex Smith look like he did for most of the Saints game.
Baltimore (+7.5) at New England: Joe Flacco is awful but I think the Ravens jump out early and force a Tom Brady comeback. Are you ready for the Eli/Tom rematch?
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.