2012 NFL Free Agency: New Orleans Saints franchise Drew Brees, Nicks and Colston free agents?

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 06: Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers congratulates Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints after their game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 6, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

As has been expected all offseason, the New Orleans Saints have placed the franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees, as reported by Jay Glazer. According to Pro Football Talk, the Saints used the exclusive version of the franchise tag, which means no team will be allowed to talk to the star quarterback. This is both bad and good for the Buccaneers. Having Brees in the same division isn't good for any NFL team, but there's an upside here, too: the Saints won't be able to use the franchise tag impending free agents Carl Nicks and Marques Colston.

Carl Nicks and Marques Colston are likely to be two heavily-coveted players in free agency, and neither is particularly likely to join the Buccaneers. The Bucs do need to bolster their offensive guard position, and Carl Nicks is by far the best player at that position to hit the market. Unfortunately, the Bucs have more pressing needs than offensive guard, and with the money already invested in Davin Joseph, Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood it doesn't seem likely the Bucs will be willing to hand out another premium contract to an offensive linemen.

The team could look at Marques Colston as well, but there are a few red flags with the veteran receiver. Colston has had numerous knee surgeries throughout his career, which is never good for a receiver. More importantly, Colston's abilities make him a relatively limited player who is best suited to working the middle of the field. He's a good receiver, certainly better than the Bucs' current receivers, but he wouldn't add a new dimension to this group of pass-catchers.

And despite that, this is all good news for the Bucs as a division foe is severely weakened. Losing Nicks will hurt the Saints most, as the guard was integral to their running game and their passing game. Drew Brees relies on his interior offensive line to provide a pocket for him to step up into, and without Nicks it will be much harder to establish that pocket. Losing Nicks could be a disastrous blow to their offense, if the Saints cannot find an adequate replacement.

Couple this with the recent news of placing bounties on opposing players and likely league punishment to be handed down, and this is shaping up to be a pretty bad week in New Orleans.

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