-- Suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will have a lot of free time in the upcoming season -- he's out of the game for the entire 2012 campaign, and he's $5.8 million lighter in the pocket after Roger Goodell told him that he was not needed this year as a result of BountyGate. Fox Sports would like to fill Payton's Sundays by making an analyst for the network's NFL broadcasts.
"Our feeling about Sean is that he's bright, articulate and obviously contemporary," said Lou D'Ermilio, FOX's senior vice president for communications in a statement. "Any network with NFL rights would have to consider it."
While the league can prevent Payton from finding gainful employment in a coaching or administrative position until his one-year suspension is done, there's no mandate to keep him out of the booth.
"He is suspended from the NFL for the season," the league said in a statement to The New York Times. "His involvement in any non-NFL employment or business matters is not our decision." [NFL.com]
-- While Goodell now considers suspensions and other possible punishments for the 22 to 27 players involved in the bounty system, the Saints did get a bit richer at the linebacker position by signing former Atlanta Falcons defender Curtis Lofton to a five-year contract. Terms of the deal are not yet available. The Falcons' second-round pick in 2008 out of Oklahoma, Lofton has since started 63 of 64 possible games, 492 tackles in the past four seasons. He posted a career high of 147 in 2011.
"Curtis is a versatile, hard-working player that has displayed a knack for being around the football, and more importantly, making plays on the ball," Saints soon-to-be-suspended general manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement released by the team. "He has the ability to play all three linebacker positions and we feel that he's just entering the prime of his career. We think he can come to New Orleans and fit in well and provide us with a significant contribution to our defense."
The team insists that the Lofton signing does not automatically mean that veteran Jonathan Vilma will be released, though the NFL could have a hand in that. Vilma is one of the highest-profile suspects in the bounty investigations. [NOLA.com]
-- The Philadelphia Eagles are looking to trade cornerback Asante Samuel, which could come as no surprise to anyone.
Last season, the Eagles' defensive secondary was a disaster, as defensive coordinator Juan Castillo employed a number of highly questionable tactics with the three-headed DB monster of Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. While Casillo was playing Asomugha as safety at times and forgetting that he had DRC on his roster, Samuel was over on the left side doing what he does -- playing off-coverage, jumping routes, and generally avoiding man coverage.
The complication in trading Samuel is that as good as he can be, he's not a completely versatile player. And with more teams employing press coverage as a staple, Samuel may find that his skill set is a bit out of date in most places. Oh, yeah -- there's also the matter of the contract -- Samuel is set to earn $9.5 million in 2012, and those are scary numbers for a 31-year-old cornerback. The Eagles will no doubt try to wrap something up at the owners meetings, which start on Monday. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
-- Speaking of the owners meetings, you can expect the salary cap penalties handed out to the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins as a result of the two teams' nebulous violations of unwritten rules to be a fairly major topic of conversation. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who lost $10 million of his 2012 cap for alleged funny business in a contract extension for receiver Miles Austin, has said that he will fight the ruling tooth and nail.
"We will and have expressed that we don't agree with that," Jones said on Friday. "What we're doing is a combination procedural and legal and all of that ... all of our contracts were approved by the league and you can't approve a contract that is in violation of league rules. You can't even get it on the books if it isn't in sync with league rules. So you start there."
To that end, Jones is open to the previously unthinkable -- an alliance with the Redskins and owner Dan Snyder, whose team was hit with a $36 million sanction as the result of several contract offloads during the NFL's uncapped year.
"There is no joy in Mudville, having to team up with the Redskins on a point with the league," Jones said. "They're competitors, not cohorts. It just shows you, independent of that, some of the issues we have with this cap space issue. Sometimes you can have strange bedfellows and this is one of them." [Dallas Morning News]
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