On Wednesday , the other shoe finally dropped: the NFL suspended four current and former New Orleans Saints. The headline-grabbing suspension was the full season given to Jonathan Vilma, the captain of the Saints' defense. These suspensions come in the wake of the Saints losing their head coach, Sean Payton, for the entire 2012 season as well as a result of the bounty scandal.
Also suspended is New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis, who is now under federal investigation regarding wire-tapping allegations; he allegedly had Superdome employees hack into the communications between the coaching boxes and the sideline headsets so he could listen to the play calling of Saints opponents for three seasons.
Loomis is now charged with signing the best players in Saints' history, quarterback Drew Brees, to a new contract. There's no sense of urgency right now from either side of the Brees negotiations. The Saints placed the franchise tag on Brees just before the start of free agency, meaning Brees would earn about $16 million in 2012. The move wasn't received well by Brees or Saints fans, and he has yet to sign the tender.
But my question is simple: why sign him long-term?
In Chicago, we've all been brainwashed into understanding the "business" element of football with recent negotiations between the Bears and star running back Matt Forte.
And nationally, the Indianapolis Colts have spent this entire offseason beginning the incredibly hard transition from the Peyton Manning Era to the Andrew Luck Era. New GM, new coach, new quarterback... the entire house has been cleaned out in Indy, and the keys have been handed to a kid coming right out of Stanford.
Using those two scenarios as a lense, consider for a moment the reality in New Orleans.
The Saints won the NFC South last year with a 13-3 record, but this will be a season unlike any other in New Orleans. They'll play an entire season for an interim head coach, while the brains of their offense (Payton) is at home watching on television. The defensive coordinator that built the team's defense into a respectable unit (until finding out that he was paying them to injure people) is now serving an indefinite suspension as a theoretical member of the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff.
Add to those coaching changes the reality that the leader of their defense, Vilma, is done for this year and their best defensive lineman, Will Smith, has been suspended for four weeks as well.
Have I mentioned that the Saints' schedule is a lot tougher this year than in recent seasons? Without losing two key performers on defense and the top two members of the coaching staff, the Saints were looking at a harder road back to the playoffs.
New Orleans' situation wasn't helped by their lack of draft picks this year. Not only did the NFL wait until after the draft to announce the suspensions, but the Saints lacked quality picks to stockpile potential replacements.
Meanwhile, Brees and the Saints continue to be at a stalemate.
Making matters more intriguing is the 2013 NFL Draft will, like this past weekend's event, be a quarterback-driven show. USC quarterback Matt Barkley is viewed by some scouts with the same lust that Luck and Robert Griffin III were this year, and will certainly be the top overall pick.
It's hard to fathom that a team falling from 13-3 to the top of the draft, but if there was ever a team with a laundry list of excuses to see that take place, it's the 2012 Saints. And if Brees continues to want a long-term deal and the organization doesn't want to pay him, that will only add to the clouds over the organization moving forward.
Tanking a season is ridiculous to suggest, but so is the idea that the captain of the Saints defense put $10,000 cash on the table in the locker room for Brett Favre's head before the NFC Championship Game.
With the prospect of a franchise quarterback available in the draft in 12 months, and the odds continuing to stack up against the Saints, it's possible a Hall of Fame quarterback, coming off a record-setting season, becomes expendable in the eyes of the organization. Indeed, the long-term eyes of the organization could easily shift from Brees to Barkley this season.