Last night the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed impending free agent lineman Jeremy Zuttah to a contract extension. In Houston, the Texans agreed to a five year deal with RB Arian Foster that will likely eclipse the Chris Johnson contract of last year. In Buffalo, the Bills have agreed to an extension with WR Stevie Johnson and Marshawn Lynch in Seattle will have a lot more money to spend on Skittles. Around the landscape of the NFL, teams are preparing for the start of free agency by either examination of their own rosters or the availability off others. Except in New Orleans and St. Louis.
The Gregg Williams bounty affair has exploded onto the NFL scene at a time when the league should be embracing the free for all event of free agency. Had this been a case of the Oakland Raiders offering up bounties chances are the NFL and their fans would likely shake their head and say, “eh, it’s the Raiders”. Notorious for their style of hard hitting play. No, instead it’s the NFL’s cream. The New Orleans Saints.
The Saints are as recognized out of New Orleans these days as Mardi Gras and long gone are the bags over the heads in the stadium. Although they could likely return as bags of shame. Williams’ bounty system in New Orleans is going to have far reaching affects on the NFL landscape. Roger Goodell has summoned Williams’ to New York, something that players will tell you is never a good thing. He will likely be suspended by March 25 which is when the league is expected to make it’s ruling. How long of a suspension is the question.
Today however, ProFootballTalk is reporting that Williams’ suspension could likely be for an entire season but he isn’t the only one. Given the nature of the infraction, the league, again according to what PFT is learning could and likely will cost significant time for Saints head coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis, and several players not only on the Saints roster but on other teams where Williams held his bounty program. Tennessee, Washington, and Buffalo.
The depth of the investigation isn’t fully known and the culprits of the system may never be known entirely, but what is known is enough to leave the NFL with a massive black eye after coming off a season marred by a lockout and an overall perception of massive greed. Roger Goodell was criticized in some circles for his “SpyGate” handling with the New England Patriots. Coach Bill Belichick was never suspended but was fined 500K for his cheating and Robert Kraft rewarded him a short month or two later with a larger contract extension. The team was fined as well and their first round draft pick was taken away. Those in league circles believe that the Commissioner’s punishment of the Saints and Williams will be significantly more.
I do however wonder if the Saints should be the only team that experiences any time of discipline as a whole. Considering that the bounty system investigation has found fault with Washington, Buffalo, and Tennessee as well. Should they too not be subjected to some degree of discipline given the nature of the infractions? If Sean Payton is to be held accountable for the actions of Williams on his coaching staff, should Jeff Fisher also be held responsible for being Williams’ boss in Tennessee where it supposedly all began? What about his time in Washington and Buffalo? Should they also not feel some sort of penalty for Williams’ actions?
The league will send a big message when it lays out it’s penalties but to what degree and how far that reaches is another story. Roger Goodell has always been very strict with the actions of players and will have to now be equally strict if not more so with punishments for coaches and our team management. While this period of time is traditionally a blank canvas of news that normally revolves around bits of rumors surfacing about tampering with free agents, Gregg Williams has seen fit to make the NFL’s off-season a little murky and dark.
I’m sure about right now the league is praying that the Indianapolis Colts would hurry up and release Peyton Manning so the focus on Williams will be altered…if even only slightly. Stay tuned though because this is far from over.