The most traumatic season in team history just got more dramatic: starting quarterback Aaron Brooks and starting defensive end Darren Howard have been benched for the remainder of the season.
Once thought the cornerstones of a young team, Brooks and Howard will be replaced. Brooks exchanged words with coaches on the sidelines recently, while Howard was benched before Monday night's Atlanta game under the pretense of a knee injury. While both have had their share of off-field comments in front of the media and in the locker room, both also saw their on-field play suffer in this most difficult of all seasons.
Brooks has two years left on his contract and is scheduled to earn $6.25 million in 2006. This move may be a precursor to Brooks' release and would signal the start of a major rebuilding project for the franchise.
Brooks will be replaced, for now, by QB Todd Bouman. Seeing action in one game this season in Green Bay, Bouman finished 5/13 for 31 yards, two sacks, a fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown. The former Viking, acquired in a trade before the 2003 season, has seen little time as a Saint in the regular season. In his preseason time, Bouman has played poorly.
Fifth round pick QB Adrian McPherson has been the Saints' third quarterback all season. In possession of the most raw talent of the three QB's, but only six collegiate starts and a season in the Arena league, McPherson will likely be given as many, if not more, chances than Brooks. A mercurial athlete with a rocket arm, McPherson need experience before he'll even compete. There is not reason to think that Bouman is safe as the Saints' starter for the remaining three games.
Howard, the team's franchise player in the past two seasons, became an off-field distraction. Meanwhile, on the field Howard was passed up by Charles Grant and especially Will Smith. Howard is scheduled to be a free agent in the offseason, when the Saints will likely not reapply the franchise tag.
The NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to a specially negotiated bonus for New Orleans Saints players for the 2005 season for performing under unusual and unanticipated conditions arising from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.
The bonus will be $40,000 for each Saints player who has been on the roster (active, inactive, PUP, IR, or practice squad) for the entire regular season. Players on the Saints' roster for less than the full season will receive $2,350 for each week on the roster.
These bonus payments will be funded by the performance-based pay system, normally geared to playing time and salary, which is part of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the annual performance-based pay system, additional bonuses will be given to those Saints players who achieve certain playing goals for the 2005 season.
Following Hurricane Katrina in August, the Saints played the 2005 season under unanticipated conditions that included residences and practice facilities, personal and family travel between homes in New Orleans and San Antonio, and home games in three different stadiums.
On a related matter, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's office reconfirmed today that the Saints' 2006 playing schedule will not be finalized until January.