Drew Brees Can Cement Legacy by Pulling a Rabbit Out of His Hat for Saints in Wake of ‘Bountygate’

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Drew Brees Can Cement Legacy by Pulling a Rabbit Out of His Hat for Saints in Wake of 'Bountygate'Drew Brees described himself as "speechless" after hearing the punishment that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down to the Saints on Wednesday for operating a bounty program.

He should be.

Because not only have the Saints seemingly tumbled a few levels down the NFC totem pole for this season, but Brees' future is now as uncertain as its been since he landed in New Orleans prior to the 2006 season.

Resolving Brees' contract situation this offseason has already been problematic. The Saints put the exclusive franchise tag on their Pro Bowl quarterback, meaning he can't sign with another team, but he could very well hold out should he and the Saints not agree to a new deal.

Brees stated earlier this offseason that he was optimistic a deal would get done, but he was reportedly "livid" when the franchise tag was placed on him, making the idea of a holdout not exactly far-fetched. Now, as he sits around and watches as his head coach, assistant head coach and general manager get slapped with suspensions, his situation goes from lacking clarity to being immersed in a thick, thick fog.

Not only could general manager Mickey Loomis' eight-game suspension factor into the negotiation process — depending on how much Loomis can do as a GM before serving his suspension — but who will be calling the shots on the New Orleans sideline? Sean Payton's gone for the year and Joe Vitt, who many assumed would play a key role in Payton's absence, is set to serve a six-game ban.

In other words, the coaching staff and front office is in disarray during a time when Brees' offseason was already a bit discombobulated.

But the question marks on the New Orleans sideline aren't limited to Payton and Vitt. As SI.com's Peter King points out, Goodell could come after the players next, and potentially lay the hammer down on a number of the Saints' key cogs. That includes defensive captain Jonathan Vilma, who — according to the NFL's investigations — offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC Championship Game.

Losing Vilma would likely be the most crushing blow if any Saints players are forced to miss time as a result of suspensions, but with others also sitting around as potential targets for Goodell, Brees can't even be sure who he'd be going to battle with on the field on a weekly basis come the start of the season.

But this isn't the first time Brees has been thrust into the spotlight and asked to save the franchise. He faced daunting expectations when he first signed with the Saints as a free agent prior to that '06 campaign, joining a team that was fresh off a 3-13 season and a region that had just been rattled by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Brees responded by earning a Pro Bowl selection, leading the Saints to an NFC Championship berth and helping to restore faith in a struggling city — all of which added up to him deservingly being named Walter Payton Man of the Year.

The odds are hardly stacked against New Orleans like they were back then; that was life and this is football. But Brees is once again the man who needs to save the franchise in the wake of a curveball.

The first order of business, of course, is ensuring that Brees is on the field come September — a move likely in the hands of Saints owner Tom Benson. If he is, all eyes will be fixated on the six-time Pro Bowler, wondering if even he'll be enough to ensure that the 2012 season isn't a lost cause.

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