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Broncos Rumors: Sean Payton, DEN to Have In-Person Interview About HC Job

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 12, 2023

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 19: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints watches his team during their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos and former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will meet Tuesday to discuss the team's coaching vacancy, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Schefter noted this will be Payton's first in-person interview, as the 59-year-old figures to be a hot commodity on the coaching market.

Payton went 152-89 in 15 years with the Saints, and he guided the franchise to its first and only Super Bowl title in 2009. No coach is ever a sure thing, but he's the safest bet available this offseason.

For the Broncos, Payton should be the clear preferred choice, because he might be just the guy to get Russell Wilson back to his best in 2023.

Wilson's 36.9 QBR was a career low and ranked 27th among qualified quarterbacks in 2022. Any short-term turnaround for Denver starts with the 34-year-old making significant improvements.

Ryan Edwards @redwardsradio

Reminder that Russell Wilson wanted to play for Sean Payton in New Orleans a couple years ago and the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Broncos?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Broncos</a> are scheduled to interview him to potentially be their head coach in the next couple weeks <a href="https://t.co/1vMqj39SJB">https://t.co/1vMqj39SJB</a>

Sam Monson @PFF_Sam

Sean Payton's Denver interview would be a fascinating fly-on-the-wall conversation to see.<br><br>Denver's entire questioning should be 'how would you fix Russell Wilson?' and hearing Payton's unvarnished opinion of that would be amazing content.

It's a challenge Payton may not be keen on assuming, though. Wilson's five-year, $242.6 million extension with the Broncos is shaping up to be a massive albatross that could set the franchise back years.

Payton has enough leverage to where he could simply turn Denver down and take another job or request the franchise swallow a very big pill and cut Wilson outright if the Mile High City is where he wants to be.

By designating the veteran quarterback as a post-June 1 release, the Broncos would be saddled with dead money hits of $39 million in 2023 and $68 million in 2024. Their available 2023 salary cap would subtract by $17 million as well.

The short-term pain could be worth wiping the slate clean and creating some long-term flexibility. A one- or two-year transitional phase could be better than maintaining a difficult status quo.

The Broncos would be foolish not to interview Payton, but they might be long shots because of the Wilson contract and its implications.

Not surprisingly, Denver's front office is already lining up contingencies. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Wednesday that Michigan's Jim Harbaugh would leap to the top of the Broncos' wish list if Payton declines any offer.