Bountygate: How the New Orleans Saints' Infamous Scandal Will Shake Up the NFL

Scotty McGrawCorrespondent IIIJune 19, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints tries to tackle  Kevin Smith #30 of the Detroit Lions during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2012 offseason has been completely engulfed by the New Orleans Saints' bountygate scandal.

The draft flew by, as did the normally seismic free-agency period. The New York Giants' Super Bowl run was overshadowed as soon as the bountygate issue went public.

About a month and a half after the season concluded, numerous Saints coaches, including head coach Sean Payton, were suspended by the NFL. Rams DC Gregg Williams, who was heavily involved in the Saints’ scandal at the time, was suspended indefinitely.

Back in May, four Saints players were also suspended for their involvement in the program. LB Jonathan Vilma, a key player in the Saints' defense, was suspended for a full year. The four players appealed yesterday.

Yesterday, more pieces of evidence emerged (via CBS) as the NFL released several documents and slides that the Saints utilized in years past.

One document has pictures of three Seattle Seahawks players, a gun, "Dog the Bounty Hunter," and quite a bit of text, which horrifyingly contains several money signs.

The whole issue will continue to affect the league as tension is rapidly escalated between sides.

The NFL and NFLPA are clashing, but the significance of the entire dilemma proceeds past the two sides.

Since Payton is out for the year, a heap of duty is now placed on quarterback Drew Brees. Brees, however, is holding out due to contract issues.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 1: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers scrambles against Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Due of all the offseason shenanigans, it appears like the Saints are going to have an off-year. The rest of the improving NFC South, however, is sure to take advantage.

In 2011, the Carolina Panthers, despite having a sub-.500 record, showed flashes of unstoppable explosiveness under rookie QB Cam Newton. Newton has a year of experience now, and will only be more dangerous as he gains knowledge of the league and the team grows. Carolina also drafted LB Luke Keuchly in the first round of the draft to help bolster their defense.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have boosted their roster this offseason by making several convincing acquisitions, like WR Vincent Jackson, OG Carl Nicks and CB Eric Wright. The Bucs had two first-round picks and selected S Mark Barron and RB Doug Martin.

The Atlanta Falcons didn't have any major acquisitions, or a first-round pick. However, they quietly traded for CB Asante Samuel, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles.

If the Saints collapse, they will undoubtedly fail to make the playoffs.

The Panthers, Buccaneers, and Falcons all have a much greater chance to make it to the dance. The young teams have immense energy also, and down the stretch, they could wreck havoc come late December and January.

The NFC playoff race will be much tighter, but what does that mean for the AFC?

AFC teams will have to push harder in the beginning of the season to gain early leverage against divisional foes, since a win versus a motivated NFC team will be very challenging. However, fatigue could start to set in around November or December, which sets a team up for a late-season breakdown.

Also, since Roger Goodell, the NFL and the NFLPA have to deal with this mess, less time will be allocated to player discipline. During this offseason, there have multitudinous arrests, but the NFL may not be able to do as much evaluation as they would like to.

The NFL is in a horrid position right now, and the bountygate scandal is sure to have a voluminous aftereffect on the 2012 NFL season.