Saints Dig a Hole

The offseason has not been great for the New Orleans Saints. In fact, it just keeps getting worse.

New Orleans was already engaged in public contract negotiations with Drew Brees and ended up placing the franchise tag on the quarterback. Brees and the Saints were reportedly $5 million apart. The rumor is that the Saints offered Brees $18 million a year, and Brees wanted $23 million. By franchising Brees, he could eat $12 million to $14 million of this year's cap (Brees' number will not be set until after the free-agent period is over, and he will get an average of the top five players at his position).

All is not lost for the Saints if they can sign Brees to a long-term contract before July. New Orleans does not have to give up all their cap space if they sign Brees, but they could end up losing other key free agents, including guard Carl Nicks.

On Friday, news broke that the Saints defense had placed bounties on players during the last three seasons. From 2009 (Super Bowl season) to 2011, the Greg Williams-led defense started a program that paid Saints players for knocking competing players out of games.

The NFL is going to come down on the Saints and come down on them hard. Even if everything works out for New Orleans in free agency and they are able to keep their key players, the Saints may have just closed their championship window.

The New England Patriots' "Spygate" is not the same kind of issue, but it's the closest thing to compare to New Orleans' "Bountygate." (I have long said that the Patriots did not get a competitive advantage from filming defensive signals. Feel free to ask me why if you see me out and about.)

The penalties in Spygate included the loss of a first-round pick and $750,000 in fines ($250,000 for the Patriots and $500,000 for Bill Belichick).

Saints owner Tom Benson knew about the bounty program and told general manager Mickey Loomis to stop it. Loomis didn't stop the program, and Benson never followed up, as far as we know. Head coach Sean Payton looked the other way. He didn't stop the program, either. Greg Williams, the Saints' defensive coordinator, is gone. It will not save New Orleans.

Look for the NFL to take away second- and third-round picks this season and a first-round pick next season. The NFL could really come down on New Orleans and take second-round and third-round picks again next season.

"Bountygate" could have far-reaching effects. Look for my full article after the NFL penalties drop on New Orleans.


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