NEW ORLEANS — While Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson are garnering most of the headlines entering free agency, one of the biggest potential moves in the NFL doesn’t involve a player, but rather a coach.
Sean Payton, who coached the New Orleans Saints to 152 wins and a Super Bowl victory across 15 seasons, is currently talking with suitors who are interested in hiring him to be their next head coach. Payton left the Saints after the 2021 season and did not coach at all in 2022, but because New Orleans still controls his rights, the Saints will be rewarded with draft pick compensation if and when he signs a new contract.
Payton himself indicated the compensation will be in the form of a mid-to-late first round pick, meaning the hiring team will give up a big time future asset while also shelling out significant money to employ the future Hall of Fame coach.
While Payton’s winning percentage is excellent, there is a question about whether this lofty price is worth paying for a coach who wasn’t on the sidelines last year and who went 9-8 in his final season back in 2021.
Matt Williamson of the Peacock and Williamson podcast believes Payton’s track record speaks for itself.
“I believe there are 15 or 20 people on the planet that know how to win in the NFL,” Williamson said. “He’s definitely one of them. I also think he’s on the (Jim) Harbaugh/(Mike) Tomlin/(Pete) Carroll layer of Hall of Fame coaches. I think he’s pretty much in at this point.”
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“You can hire Sean Payton and know that you didn’t screw up,” Brian Peacock added. “You didn’t hire Urban Meyer.”
Currently four teams are known to be conversing with Payton after receiving permission from New Orleans: Denver, Arizona, Carolina, and Houston. Payton is trying to make sure he finds a fit that works for him, citing ownership as the biggest key for him personally when making this decision.
Whichever team Payton chooses will have to fork over a hefty sum of money, as well as an attractive draft pick, but getting a coach with Payton’s pedigree is worth the cost for organizations in desperate need of a change.
“He’s a really good coach candidate,” Peacock added. “And I think you’d feel so comfortable hiring him. He’s probably worth it for your franchise if you’re in need of a turnaround.”
There hasn't been a coach trade in the NFL in over 15 years when the New York Jets allowed Herm Edwards out of his contract so he could sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets received a fourth-round pick from the Chiefs as compensation.
Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick headlined two of the most notable coach trades in NFL history. Gruden left the Oakland Raiders for the Tampa Bay Bucs after the 2001 season. Oakland received first and second-round picks in the 2002 draft, a first-round pick in the 2003 draft and a second-round pick in the 2004 draft.
Belichick was hired by the Jets in 2000 before quitting a day later. A few weeks later, the New England Patriots hired him and gave the Jets a first-round selection in the 2000 draft, a fourth-round selection in the 2001 draft and a seventh-round selection in the 2002 draft as compensation.