Sean Payton is the man of the hour for NFL teams looking for new coaches, but the Denver Broncos have reportedly taken the early lead in the race to land the former New Orleans Saints leader.
According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the AFC West team is the "front-runner" for Payton, who "likes the franchise's stable ownership and would be happy to work with Russell Wilson."
Maske's report comes after ESPN's Adam Schefter noted the Broncos will be the first team to interview Payton in person when they meet in Los Angeles on Monday.
Denver will have some competition, though, as Peter Schrager of Fox Sports reported the Houston Texans sought permission to interview Payton. What's more, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the Saints gave the Arizona Cardinals permission to interview him.
These teams need permission to interview him because he still had two years left on his previous contract with the Saints when he decided to step down ahead of the 2022 campaign.
That also means whichever team hires Payton will need to provide New Orleans with compensation, and ESPN's Katherine Terrell reported "the Saints would likely try to start any conversion at a first-round pick."
It comes as no surprise Payton is generating so much interest, as he led the Saints to a Super Bowl title, nine playoff appearances and a 152-89 record from 2006 through 2021. The NFC South team was consistently among the best teams in the league during his tenure, and his partnership with Drew Brees helped usher in a golden era for the franchise.
Perhaps the Broncos believe he can establish a similar partnership with Wilson.
While Wilson is likely a future Hall of Famer and was excellent on the Seattle Seahawks with a Super Bowl title and nine Pro Bowl selections, he failed to live up to expectations in his first year in Denver.
He had just 16 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions, and the Broncos stumbled to a last-place finish in the AFC West at 5-12. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett didn't even make it through his first year in the position before he was fired.
That is why Payton is on the team's radar, and he may be working with Wilson come the 2023 campaign.