The “Bounty-Gate” scandal has claimed it’s first victims and the NFC South has changed because of it. Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for one year starting the 1st of April. GM Mickey Loomis will also be suspended for a reported 8 games and the Saints will lose two draft picks. Actual player discipline is still to come as the NFL works with the NFLPA on hashing out the particulars.
The discipline has several immediate ramifications as it pertains to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFC South.
First, Drew Brees has been very unhappy with the franchise tag. Nobody knows this offense as well as Sean Payton other than Brees. He is the only one capable of providing a smooth transition for whomever the Saints turn to at head coach. If Brees continues to hold out on signing the tag, it puts the Saints in an even worse situation. The Saints tagged him with the “exclusive rights” tag, which means he can’t negotiate with other teams. He can however, decide to sit the season out. Drew Brees now has more than just leverage, he has the Saints backed into a corner. Expect owner Tom Benson to now make Brees a priority as to avoid even more negative publicity and try to save his franchise.
Secondly, free agent linebacker Curtis Lofton had reportedly dined with Saints brass a few days ago. Still, the Tampa Tribune’s Ira Kaufman has reported the Buccaneers continue to hold interest in the linebacker’s services, despite him leaving a contract offer on the table. Well, the Saints are sure not to look like such a great destination for Lofton now. He can either come to a team on the rise in the Buccaneers, or a team in crisis in New Orleans. The only caveat may be that the Saints give Lofton his reported $9 million dollar asking price out of desperation, forcing him to choose between money or the current stability of the Bucs organization. Though money is sure to be a big factor, players ultimately want to win.
Lastly, the Saints lose their 2012 and 2013 second round NFL draft selections. The move only further hinders the organization from developing their talent pool long term, while giving the other NFC South teams an advantage. The second round is an all important position for teams and the narrowing of the field by even one impacts the overall draft strategy and quality of selections.
There is also the question of how current Saints players will react to the news and what the locker room vibe will be once the season begins. Entering OTA’s without a head coach, general manager and possibly their star quarterback, the vibe is sure not to be a positive one. This isn’t a distraction to overcome, this is an obstacle of grand proportions. One the Buccaneers do not have to deal with.
While the other NFC South teams are moving forward, the Saints are stuck in reverse.
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