The New Orleans Saints know player suspensions are likely coming thanks to the fallout from the team's bounty program, but the NFL's delay in handing out those penalties is a pretty severe punishment, and it is deserved.
That means New Orleans will enter the 2012 NFL draft not knowing what players it needs to replace immediately. Considering that the Saints are coming off of a 13-3 season and will likely be in the mix for a playoff spot again in 2012, that could have serious consequences.
For example, the Saints do not know how long linebacker Jonathan Vilma (who is almost certain to be suspended) will be out, and the NFL has claimed that between 22 and 27 player participated in the bounty program. That could leave New Orleans scrambling to fill spots on its roster as the season approaches, particularly if the Saints can't use the draft to help in that regard.
New Orleans traded away its first-round pick in this year's draft to the New England Patriots in order to move up and select running back Mark Ingram last year. The NFL then stripped the Saints of their second-round pick as a result of the bounty scandal. That means the team's later-round picks have become even more valuable.
The fact that they won't know what holes they need to plug immediately is almost like an additional punishment from the NFL.
The Saints embarrassed the league with the bounty scandal, and they will be paying for it for quite a while thanks to suspensions, fines and the loss of draft picks. The delay in punishing players has also acted as an additional punishment and could have an effect on this year's draft.
As far as I'm concerned, the NFL taking its time in doling out player suspensions is fine. The league shouldn't feel like it needs to do things quickly to accommodate New Orleans's draft plans.
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