Saints: One big question

Is there any hope after the bounty scandal?

Going an entire season without coach Sean Payton is far from ideal. But, aside from that, the Saints -- by planning, luck or a combination of the two -- didn’t come out of this horrid offseason with nearly as many offseason problems as they could have.

Really, all they're losing as far as personnel is defensive end Will Smith for the first four games of the season. Yeah, I know linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire season. With all due respect to Vilma, he was a great player a few years ago, but he’s on the downside of his career and the Saints upgraded when they signed free agent Curtis Lofton. Just for insurance, they also signed linebackers David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain. Throw the new guys in with Scott Shanle, Martez Wilson, Jonathan Casillas and Will Herring, and the Saints are stronger at linebacker than they were last season.

If new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can figure out a way to generate a pass rush without Smith (and improve it when he returns), the Saints will be just fine on defense. We already know they’re just fine on offense, assuming quarterback Drew Brees’ contract situation gets worked out. There might be a few more weeks or months of drama on that end, but I don’t see any way the Saints go into the season without Brees' having a long-term deal.

Get Brees back in there, and the Saints could combine marketing campaigns with the NBA’s Hornets, who were just purchased by Saints owner Tom Benson. The Saints truly are a hornet’s nest right now. They (and their fans) are steaming mad at the NFL, the media and pretty much everyone outside of their world. You can see an "us-against-the-world" mentality building. As motivational ploys go, that’s not a bad one. Oh, here's a little more motivation. The Super Bowl is in New Orleans. The Saints and their fans could show up the NFL if they make it to the Super Bowl.