The New Orleans Saints are facing a crossroads once again. They ended their season at 7–10, finishing third in the NFC South and not qualifying for the playoffs. As usual, they are expected to be tens of millions of dollars over the salary cap, and it will be up to general manager Mickey Loomis to save the Saints from the proverbial “cap hell” the team is facing. 

However, a unique caveat of this offseason is the chance to trade Sean Payton, their former head coach who stepped away from the Saints in 2021. I understand that many of you reading that last sentence are confused. First of all, Payton is a coach. Second, he no longer coaches the New Orleans Saints. You may be asking, “What do you mean by ‘trade’ Payton?” 

Payton did step down from his coaching job in 2021, that is correct. However, he is under contract with the Saints through the 2024 season. Therefore, any team wanting to hire the Saints legend must give some compensation to the Saints in exchange for the right to hire him. 

This is a unique circumstance. Players are traded every day like stocks on the stock market. Coaches, however, are a different thing. Since the NFL’s first season in 1920, there have only been seven trades involving coaches. More often than not, it comes with a high asking price and the league’s head office has to step in.

 A prime example of this would be in 1997, when legendary New England Patriots coach Bill Parcells stepped away from the team. The New York Jets wanted his services; however, he was still under contract with New England. The Jets attempted to circumvent the NFL rules by initially claiming Parcells wasn’t the head coach. After the Patriots complained, then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue intervened, forcing the Jets to send a king’s ransom of draft picks to the Patriots in exchange for the right to hire Parcells.

Will any team who wants to hire Payton have to give away a king’s ransom like the Jets did? Not necessarily. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media,  the Saints are asking for a “first-round pick and more”. Payton confirmed this on Colin Cowherd’s show: “The Herd”, saying that the starting price is “a mid-to-late first-round pick.” 

So, who are the teams that are interested in Payton’s services? The first team that Payton was linked to was the Denver Broncos, who fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett on December 26th, 2022. The team has the undersized yet talented quarterback that Payton is looking for in Russell Wilson, and they also have a late-round pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, which belongs to the San Francisco 49ers. As of the print deadline, it is currently unknown where the Broncos are slated to select. 

Another team that has shown interest in Payton is the Los Angeles Chargers, though at the time this article is released they seem to be sticking with their head coach Brandon Staley. The Arizona Cardinals are also looking at Payton after recently firing head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and with a tandem of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, Payton would have the Cardinals equivalent of Drew Brees and Marques Colston from the late 2000s’ Saints. 

In his time as coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton has a career record of 152-89 in 15 seasons coached, with a postseason record of 9-8. The biggest accomplishment of Payton’s coaching career is winning Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, providing the biggest reason why Payton is worth a first-round pick. Only time will tell when it comes to which team will hire Payton.