|Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Press|
|Saints QB Drew Brees is coming off a record-breaking season, throwing for 5,476 yards, the most in NFL history.|
It's official: Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints reached agreement on a five-year, $100 million contract, with $60 million guaranteed. The move is a bright spot in what has been a tumultuous offseason for the franchise. With Brees now in the fold, what are your expectations for the Saints in 2012?
Led by Brees, Saints will rally around the bounty scandalThe Saints remain the team to beat in the division. That Brees got his deal done is no surprise. That had to happen and did.
Brees will have a greater role in shaping the offense during games without Sean Payton on the sideline. Brees also will likely have more sway with game planning during the week.
With Brees's accuracy and leadership, the Saints always will contend. The big issue will be whether the team can stay healthy enough. They will rally around the bounty scandal and this good news will get the ball rolling.
Don't expect another division title for New OrleansI don't think the Saints will duplicate winning the division this year. I think the loss of head coach Sean Peyton for the season -- in addition to the fact that they will be without his replacement, Joe Vitt, the first six games -- is going to hurt them more than expected.
Brees is a tremendous leader on and off the field. I think the offense will still be explosive. The Saints will miss Robert Meachem, for sure, but Jimmy Graham will build upon his 99-catch season in 2011 and have an even a better year.
On defense, I think they will be sound under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo but still lack a pass rush without blitzing. I think the loss of Tracy Porter will hurt the secondary. I see the Saints as a wild-card team ... and the Carolina Panthers as the NFC South champ.
And your 2012 NFC South champion is ...For the Saints, this season will play out very similar to the Patriots' 2007 campaign. Following the videotaping scandal, they played with a chip on their shoulders and tried to score 50 points a game. The same will go for New Orleans. "Oh, you think we're the bad guys now? Watch this." They will try to embarrass teams to let out their frustration. They won't miss Sean Payton because everyone's been in that unstoppable offense for years now. Brees could be the head coach, too, if they wanted.
They're going to steamroll through teams en route to the NFC South crown. And in the playoffs, they'll go as far as home-field advantage will take them, because even the biggest chip in the world won't help them win on the road, which they've never done in the playoffs. (And I'm sure they'll find inspiration in those kinds of statements as well.)
Division title? Maybe, but Saints won't be in Super Bowl mixI expect the Saints to compete for the NFC South title, but fail to emerge as serious challengers in the NFC. I believe the loss of Sean Payton significantly will impact the Saints offense and the diminished potency will prevent them from competing with the heavyweights in the conference.
I could see them making the playoffs with a 9-7 or 10-6 record, but I don't expect them to emerge as a title contender in 2012.
Saints will struggle some, but won't fall into a 6-10 abyssMy expectations are the same as they were before. Who really thought the Saints and Brees weren't going to reach a deal? As much as Brees could have held the club hostage, the bottom line is that he likely wanted this contract situation in the rearview mirror as much as the Saints did.
My sense is the Saints are a 10-win team. The defense is going to have some growing pains with new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and without Jonathan Vilma. The offense will miss Sean Payton. But is it enough to put this club in a 7-9 or 6-10 abyss? No. The offense is too formidable and the absence of Payton will mean Brees will call more plays he's comfortable with and perhaps a hair less based off game planning. This will be his seventh campaign in the same scheme. Basically, Brees is a coach on the field at this point. The offensive unit around him is still stacked, while the defense can't be any worse than it was last year, when it ranked 31st in the league in takeaways.
Big season coming for Brees and Saints; expect plenty of shootoutsThe Saints really needed some positive publicity, so it's about time the team had some good news. I was really worried this drama was going to drag into training camp, but they finally got the deal done. And to be honest, having the extra time off probably will be better for Brees.
With a full training camp, Brees won't miss a beat. The Saints were able to survive the lockout last season because Brees kept the team together, not coach Sean Payton. So I expect a big season out of Brees, and they're going to need it considering the number of shootouts they will likely be involved in.
Pump the brakes on having high expectations for SaintsDid we ever think Brees wouldn't be in the fold? Truth is, his "official" return doesn't really change my expectations, which basically are: I don't know what to expect.
On the surface, things don't look so great. You've got the revolving door head coach thing. A not-so-hot defense loses middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma all year and defensive end Will Smith for four games. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo did wonders with the Giants, but he also had three of the league's best defensive ends (Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan) -- and doesn't it take time for a new scheme to take hold? The schedule isn't exactly a cakewalk either.
Then again, this is the Saints. They do have Drew Brees playing with a veritable array of offensive game-breakers. So really, all I can say I know for sure is that, with $40 million this first year alone, Brees can definitely afford better seats to the Wiggles than he had last night.