One question about the former No. 1 overall pick is whether Smith can replicate what he did in 2011 on an annual basis. The question facing Matt Flynn, another quarterback about to hit the open market, is can he perform at a high level from week-to-week.
Aaron Rodgers' backup the last four seasons, Flynn has made only two starts. However, he threw for 731 yards in those two starts -- only Cam Newton threw for more yards in his first two starts in NFL history.
Matt Flynn NFL Career Starts
From 2008-10, Flynn completed less than half of his passes outside the field numbers (17-36). In 2011, Flynn was 14-of-19 on throws outside the numbers.
There are several big-name receivers in this year’s free agent class. Reggie Wayne is one of them, and while he’s been linked to whatever team Peyton Manning signs with, he will be a valuable addition wherever he goes.
Not only does Wayne lead the NFL in receptions, yards and touchdowns since 2003, but he’s started 145 consecutive regular-season games, the third-longest active streak by an offensive player.
Since his rookie season in 2006, Colston ranks among the NFL’s top 10 in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. He’s also had at least 1,000 yards receiving in five of his six seasons. (Randy Moss is the only player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first six seasons.)
Jackson became one of the best deep threats in seven seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Since 2008, Jackson’s 18.0 yards per reception is third in the NFL (minimum 100 receptions), and his 37 receptions on throws longer than 20 yards downfield ranks fourth in the NFL.
Colston caught nearly 77 percent of his targets last season, the best percentage among any wide receiver in the league (minimum 50 targets).
Jackson’s teammate with the Chargers, Mike Tolbert, is one of a handful of running backs who might be looking elsewhere in order to find more playing time.
Sharing time with Ryan Mathews, Tolbert has 19 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons, including a league-high 10 one-yard scores. And in 2011, no player had more rushing touchdowns up the middle than Tolbert’s six (Newton and Ray Rice also had six).
If Colston goes elsewhere, he might not even be the Saints biggest loss this offseason. Free agent Carl Nicks played every offensive snap last season, including playoffs, all at left guard. The Saints averaged 6.6 yards per rush to the left last season, second-best in the NFL.