NEW ORLEANS -- As we get ready to flip the calendar from Year of the Bounty Scandal to Year After the B.S., this inquiring mind would like to know:
* What has former FBI director Louis Freeh uncovered during his group's internal investigation of the New Orleans Saints organization in the wake of wiretapping allegations aired by ESPN in April against General Manager Mickey Loomis?
Louisiana State police, in its own four-month investigation, found no evidence that Loomis eavesdropped on conversations involving opposing team coaches and there was no infrastructure created inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to enable such eavesdropping. Translated: The allegations were baseless and unfounded.
In May, team spokesman Greg Bensel said Freeh's sole function was to delve into the wiretapping allegations. That said, Freeh's hiring also came during the early stages of the bounty scandal and unprecedented sanctions levied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell against the organization and high-ranking members of the football operations.
If it were me, I'd ask Freeh to kill two birds with one stone while in town and look into the bounty scandal.
When queried Saturday via text on where the Freeh investigation stands, Bensel told SportsNOLA.com: "We have no comment on status (of) Freeh Group.''
Frankly, I'd be shocked if Benson ever makes Freeh's findings public, at least the unedited version. Of course, that's Benson's prerogative. After all, he's footing the bill. In fact, I applaud him for wanting to get to the bottom of things.
Know this: Freeh's group charged the Penn State University Board of Trustees an estimated $6.5 million for its exhaustive eight-month investigation into the Nittany Lions' football program under late coach Joe Paterno and the criminal wrongdoing of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
* As the 2012 season draws to a close, the Saints are approximately $16 million over next year's estimated salary cap of $121 million. That means Loomis will have to perform some cost-cutting/belt-tightening measures during the offseason to get his roster under that cap figure.
In the past, Loomis has restructured the contracts of players to find some extra money, quarterback Drew Brees being one of them. In light of his recent $100 million deal ($61 million is guaranteed), I asked Brees if he would be amenable to restructure his contract to free up some money to upgrade the roster if the idea was broached. "I don't know,'' Brees said.
* Finally, it has been widely reported that Benson has agreed in principle on a new five-year contract with suspended coach Sean Payton. According to Ed Werder of ESPN, Payton will be paid more than $8 million annually, putting him slightly above the NFL's current highest-paid coach, Bill Belichick of New England.
Of course, the agreement has to meet the approval of the league office. Remember, in September 2011, Goodell nixed a three-year extension because of a suspicious/curious clause in the deal that would have allowed Payton to walk away if Loomis was suspended, fired or otherwise left the organization.
It is my understanding Payton wanted that clause because of his concerns about the stability and day-to-day operation of the organization sans Benson.
Naturally, I am just a little curious how they resolved that issue. Aren't you?
Happy New Year!
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