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Paying defensive players bounty style, off-the-table incentives for performances isn’t new to the NFL. Hell, its common in college, and goes all the way down to Pop Warner level. Only thing is most of the players on the lower levels get paid helmet stickers, or snacks (think Pop Warner)  instead of cash for their standout hits, sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles.

Gregg Williams, the coach at the heart of a scandal involving bounties paid for big hits on opposing players, met with National Football League investigators in advance of a decision about punishments over the practice. The league made no official comment on Monday’s talks, which came after former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Williams admitted his culpability following the NFL‘s announcement of its findings from an intensive investigation.

The New Orleans Saints continue to take hits from every angle for running what the NFL has said was a “bounty program’’ over the past three seasons. The latest shot comes from Tampa Bay, where Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman said he and his teammates were warned by their former coaches to watch out for cheap shots when playing the Saints the last three years.

The New Orleans Saints have saved $4.78 million in salary cap space by restructuring the contract of veteran defensive end Will Smith, according to numbers obtained by ESPN.com. The deal was finalized Monday as the Saints position themselves to be under the salary cap at the start of free agency. That could be a challenge because the Saints have placed a franchise tag of almost $15 million on quarterback Drew Brees and want to attempt to re-sign guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston, as well as some other free agents. The Saints likely will be releasing some veterans in the coming days, but restructuring Smith gives them some added flexibility.

Brees and the Saints still can negotiate a long-term deal, but if one is not reached by July 15 then Brees must either sign the franchise-tag deal or hold out. The franchise figure for quarterbacks in 2012 currently stands at between $16 million and $17 million, but that could change depending on what happens with any potential Peyton Manning deal.

The Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning have until Friday before the deadline hits on any talks for a renegotiated deal, league sources with knowledge of the quarterback’s deal told NFL Network inside Jason La Canfora on Tuesday, but the likelihood remains that a final decision on Manning will come by Thursday, club sources said.

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Tags: 2009 NFC Championship Game 2012 Nfl Draft 2013 NFL Draft Bounty Program Brett Favre Darren Sharper Drew Brees ESPN Franchise Tag Gregg Williams Indianapolis Colts Jonathan Vilma Mark Ingram Mickey Loomis New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFL Network NFLPA Peyton Manning Rams Roger Goodell Sean Payton The Saints Tom Benson Tom Brady Tom Condon

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