It seemed like just yesterday Drew Brees was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy above his head and toting his son Baylen beneath a shower of confetti. That was the scene three years ago and oh, how things change. The New Orleans Saints and owner Tom Benson have already had an off-season filled with headaches and it will get worse before it gets better.
The bounty scandal has already been well publicized and regardless of which side you fall on, punishment will be coming in some form. Though the apparent ring leader Gregg Williams has moved on to the Saint Louis Rams, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has to calm the media storm by banging both Williams and the Saints since it occurred under Benson’s watch. Whether it be by fines, suspensions, or loss of draft picks, the hammer will drop and the news will keep the spotlight on the Saints. Colts owner Jim Irsay is comfortably exhaling now that the off-season story has shifted from the Peyton Manning saga to “Bounty-Gate”. The opinion and conjecture on everything Saints, from their Super Bowl title being in question to “who knew what” is sure to linger on. As many other teams amid scandal can tell you, it’s not fun having distractions of this magnitude. Come OTA’s and Training Camp, we all know the first question which will be asked.
Another issue at hand plaguing the organization is the franchise tagging of quarterback Drew Brees. Since the days of Archie Manning it is hard to think of another player so endeared to the city and idolized. It was Brees who brought the Saints back to life and his reward for bringing home the first Super Bowl trophy just a few seasons ago is a franchise tag. As WIST am radio in New Orleans reported, Brees is “livid” with the tag. Not only did he get the palm across the face with the label, they returned with a backhand to the other side by Brees being paid millions less because of the new franchise tag formula under last season’s renewed CBA. Brees is set to make just a bit more than $14.4 million with the tag in contrast to last season’s franchised quarterbacks who made an average of $16 million or more. Guys like Peyton Manning and Mike Vick who were slapped with the tag last year made $20 million plus. That would be the true worth of Drew Brees, a player which was given the Bart Starr award last season and broke Dan Marino’s 27 year old passing record. While it still is possible the Saints will lift the tag once they get finances in order, Mickey Loomis’ comment that Brees is “very good” and not great in combination with the tag must sting. Starting the off-season by insulting your starting quarterback isn’t the best strategy.
Things get even more interesting now that FOXSports.com is reporting the Saints will work out embattled wide receiver Randy Moss. Everyone knows Moss’ penchant for taking off plays and not being the best locker room presence, so the news must have Saints fans scratching their heads. Moss was far from the player in 2011 he was just two seasons ago. After getting traded by the Patriots, cut by the Vikings and relegated to a third option player in Tennessee, many don’t see the silver lining in this. The move also raises eyebrows given the current contract status of Marques Colston and if he will actually hit the market. Why would they even be thinking Moss unless Colston is going to be allowed to graze greener pastures? Even more interesting is the report that quarterback Brian Brohm is scheduled to work out for the Saints as well. Though the Saints are in desperate need of some warm bodies behind Brees and Chase Daniel, the timing of it all just doesn’t mesh well. It could reflect the Saints apprehension Drew Brees will hold out and not sign the franchise tag, thus planning ahead. Brohm won’t even likely sniff the field, but if things turn ugly, Chase Daniel will need a back up.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, there is a very good possibility the Saints will start the season without coach Sean Peyton and Jonathan Vilma. Vilma was the alleged mastermind behind a supposed Brett Favre bounty and Sean Peyton allegedly knew of the bounties and let them slide. There will no doubt be more players to be named and this all will rest on how harshly Roger Goodell wants to discipline. Although Goodell is sure to have known about programs like these in different clubs, the media backlash and opinion are forcing his hand. The louder it grows, the harder he will come down. All of this comes down to a possible shift in the NFC South expectations. The division is already well known for it’s “worst to first” revolving door in standings each season and the issues at hand only make the mountain that much harder to climb. The good news is there is still more than enough time to get as good a grip on all the challenges and make sense out of the chaos.
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