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Sean Payton Rumors: Latest on Head Coach's Interest from Cardinals, Panthers, Broncos

Adam WellsJanuary 25, 2023

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 11: Former NFL coach Sean Payton speaks during an interview on day 3 of SiriusXM At Super Bowl LVI on February 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SiriusXM )
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SiriusXM

As teams in need of a head coach continue to go through the interview process, Sean Payton's top suitors are starting to come into focus.

Payton has already met with four of the five teams that have a head-coaching vacancy. The Indianapolis Colts are the only team that hasn't spoken with him.

Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano, the Broncos are expected to solidify their list of finalists soon with Payton expected to be in that group. The Cardinals and Payton haven't "picked up much traction" as a pairing at this point in the process.

The Panthers are a potential wild card, with Fowler noting owner David Tepper isn't afraid to be "aggressive," but it's unclear if he would give up the draft capital to the New Orleans Saints to acquire Payton and pay him a massive salary.

According to Fowler, Payton is considered the Broncos' top target by people around the NFL.

Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on Monday that Payton is expected to meet with Denver's management group for the second time this week.

It's not a surprise the Broncos would make a significant play for Payton. This will be the first major hire made by the Walton-Penner group since they officially took ownership of the franchise in August.

This season was a mess from the start in Denver. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett couldn't figure out clock management in the first few weeks. Russell Wilson was a huge disappointment after signing a five-year, $245 million contract extension in September.

Hackett was fired on Dec. 26 after a 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Day. Given how difficult it would be to move on from Wilson because of his contract, the next logical step is hiring a head coach with a strong offensive track record.

The Cardinals certainly need some stability at head coach after things fell apart under Kliff Kingsbury, but Graziano and Fowler cited Vance Joseph and Dan Quinn as potentially stronger candidates.

The Panthers could be hurt in this process by being in the same division as the Saints. New Orleans might make Tepper pay a higher premium for Payton than other teams interested in the 59-year-old.

Duncan reported last week that Saints general manager Mickey Loomis is seeking compensation "similar" to the two first-round draft picks the Oakland Raiders received from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Jon Gruden in 2002.

Payton spent this season working as an analyst for Fox's NFL coverage. He went 152-89 with one Super Bowl title and nine playoff appearances in 15 seasons as Saints head coach.