After spending a year outside the NFL, working as an analyst for FOX Sports, it’s widely believed that Sean Payton is looking to become a head coach again. He’s spoken publicly about his interest in resuming his coaching career, but if he does return, chances are it won’t be with the New Orleans Saints, who hold his contract rights until 2024.
Instead, Payton appears to be targeting one of the five current NFL head coaching vacancies. With the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts all seeking a new head coach, Payton would appear to be a strong candidate to land in each place. Yet, there has been no links of Payton having any interest in the Colts, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, Payton has only received permission to speak to the other four teams.
Since he is still under contract with the Saints, if Payton wants to become a head coach for the 2023 season, a team would have to first trade for his rights. It’s been said, even by the former Saints coach himself, that the New Orleans organization is seeking at least a mid-first-round pick in return for his services.
But, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, sources close to the situation have since indicated the Saints are asking for a first-round pick, plus more. There is no speculation on just how much more that may be.
Earlier reports have suggested the Panthers are willing to pay whatever it costs to land Payton. If so, expect the Saints to up the ante for their NFC South division rivals. So far, Payton has interviewed with the Broncos and Texans, but the Panthers are up next on Monday. The Cardinals have not met with Payton yet, but they also recently hired Monti Ossenfort to be the team’s new general manager, so it’s possible a Payton meeting is coming soon.
Hiring Sean Payton will cost teams much more than just a first-round pick
In addition to the draft capital teams will have to part with to land Payton, they’ll also have to fork over a large contract that likely recognizes Sean Payton among the highest-paid coaches in football.
Some reports have suggested Payton could be set to command as much as $20 to 25 million annually on his next contract. Being that he’s a former Super Bowl-winning coach with a proven track record and a career win percentage of 63%, Payton will likely receive an offer to his liking.
Coaching contracts are not factored into a team’s salary cap, meaning what’s preventing an NFL owner who has plenty of money to spare as they pursue a Super Bowl title from handing a blank check to one of the more accomplished head coaches in recent history?
Teams routinely try and uncover the next upcoming coaching candidate who can help turn their franchise around, but if Payton has already proven to be a winner, why try and reinvent the wheel?