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The city of New Orleans has been through a lot over the years with its football team.
The years of failure where the fans called the team the 'Aints and wore paper bags over their heads. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the long recovery time needed to heal the city and the residents. And now, the unprecedented incident of the bounty-hunting program initiated by ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The Saints have paid fines, have lost head coach Sean Payton for the year and will have general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt suspended as well. They lost a second-round draft pick, defensive end Will Smith for four games and might lose linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, pending the results of Vilma's appeal, per this tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The situation has become personal, as Vilma sued Commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation of character, according to this tweet by Larry Holder.
On top of all that, the Saints still haven't been able to reach common ground in contract negotiations with team leader and the emotional glue for the organization, quarterback Drew Brees. The frustration expressed by Brees, per this ESPN story, over how slowly the talks are progressing has to be upsetting to the fans and to the team, particularly given that several other franchise players have been able to work out long-term deals in the past two months.
Can anything else go wrong for the Saints this offseason? One thing they already realized before they found out the results of which players would be suspended and for how long was they needed to be proactive in free agency. Because of the moves the Saints made in free agency, they earned this spot in the rankings. If they stayed quiet on that front, they would have been slotted at No. 32.
In free agency, the Saints were able to sign wide receiver Marques Colston, linebacker Chris Chamberlain, linebacker Curtis Lofton, quarterback Chase Daniel, linebacker David Hawthorne, guard Ben Grubbs, defensive lineman Remi Ayodele, kicker John Kasay, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and extended corner Jabari Greer.
Another positive note was that the Saints restructured contracts with defensive end Will Smith, guard Jahri Evans, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, wide receiver Lance Moore and corner Patrick Robinson. Those deals will help to free up the cash needed to ink Drew Brees to a new deal, hopefully sooner than later.
As for the Saints draft, there wasn't that much to get excited about. The Saints didn't own a pick until No. 90 overall, so the cream of the crop was already off the big board by then. The Saints drafted Canadian defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, Wisconsin wide receiver Nick Toon, Samford safety Corey White, Syracuse guard Andrew Tiller and Nebraska tackle Marcel Jones.
The free-agent class was of much greater importance than the draft class, but at least the draft gave the Saints some new talent to work with. The 2012 season will be very difficult on the franchise and the fans, so patience and understanding appear to be the keywords for this year.