NFL Rumors: Sean Payton, Broncos Have 'Sincere Mutual Interest' After HC Interview

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 19, 2023

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 05: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints runs on the field before the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 05, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos and Sean Payton share "sincere mutual interest," according to 9News' Mike Klis.

Klis reported the Broncos are expected to take the next step in their hiring process next week, at which point they will have narrowed down their list of candidates.

During his interview with Denver's representatives Tuesday, Payton made a strong impression and thus could be one of the finalists, per Klis.

From the outside, one wouldn't think the issue would be a lack of interest from Denver.

The Broncos are clearly desperate to end a seven-year playoff drought, and Payton is the most proven coach on the market. He went 152-89 and won a Super Bowl across his 15 seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

The intrigue stems more from whether the 59-year-old would be sufficiently turned off by Denver's present predicament.

Trading for Russell Wilson and sacrificing multiple first-round picks in the process was bad enough. Signing him to a five-year, $242.6 million extension compounded the mistake and left the franchise in an almost impossible short-term position.

From Payton's perspective, resurrecting a 34-year-old quarterback potentially on an inescapable decline may not be that intriguing.

In the event he successfully sold Broncos ownership on cutting Wilson and eating the significant cost to do so, the financial ramifications would box them in for at least one and possibly two years.

Spotrac @spotrac

Please understand that if you're talking about the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Broncos?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Broncos</a> getting rid of Russell Wilson this offseason via release, it includes:<br><br>$107M of Dead Cap...<br>($39M in 2023, $68M in 2024)<br><br>...of which $67M is a cash payment.

For Payton, money could talk in a big way.

NOLA.com's Jeff Duncan reported Wednesday his asking price is a four-year contract that averages between $20 million and $25 million annually. Duncan noted he'd be among the highest-paid coaches in the NFL with those terms.

That kind of contract might be off-putting to some but shouldn't be an issue for an ownership group that spent $4.7 billion to purchase the Broncos. And if Denver is willing to go that high, then working alongside Wilson doesn't sound all that bad for an incoming coach.

MarkMaske @MarkMaske

The Broncos remain in very strong position to be able to get Sean Payton, whatever the interest level by other teams. They have the NFL's wealthiest owners. Payton has told associates that he likes the Broncos' stable ownership and is willing to work with Russell Wilson.

The outcome of the Broncos' search isn't a foregone conclusion at this point. Based on Klis' report, though, it might be Payton's job for the taking if he wants it.