Broncos Finalizing Deal to Acquire Sean Payton from Saints

The Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints are finalizing trade compensation for Super Bowl-winning coach Sean Payton, ESPN reported. This would allow Payton to become Denver’s next head coach, which is expected to happen.

The Broncos are dealing their 2023 first-round pick and next year’s second-round pick for Payton and the Saints’ 2024 third. Denver’s first-rounder is the 30th overall, which it acquired from the Dolphins in the Bradley Chubb trade.

“Sounds expensive,” said Chase Daniel, an analyst for the 33rd Team, “but you get one of the best leaders, as a head coach, of all time.”

This comes after Denver reportedly missed out on its top three candidates. Jim Harbaugh returned to Michigan, DeMeco Ryans became the Texans’ head coach, and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn decided to stay in Dallas.

Denver made a late push on Tuesday to sign Ryans before he decided to stick with the Texans. Once Ryans wasn’t an option, they pivoted to trading for Payton, NFL Media reported.

Payton stepped away from the Saints in 2021 as easily the most decorated coach in franchise history. During 15 seasons there, Payton won 152 games, leading New Orleans to seven NFC South titles, nine postseason appearances, three NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl victory after the 2009 season, the lone title in franchise history.

Payton inherits a Broncos team that finished 5-12 in 2022 and fired former coach Nathaniel Hackett in late December. Payton’s first and most important task will be trying to revive the career of quarterback, Russell Wilson.

If Payton can accomplish that, then he should be able to help the Broncos return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, when they won the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s final season. Since then, the franchise has missed the postseason seven consecutive times and finished with a .500 record or better just once, in Kubiak’s second – and final – season as coach. Only one of his three successors led the Broncos to as many as seven wins in a season.

Broncos Busted

Season Coach Record AFC West Finish
2022 Nathaniel Hackett (4-11)/

Jerry Rosburg (1-1)

5-12 4th
2021 Vic Fangio 7-10 4th
2020 Fangio 5-11 4th
2019 Fangio 7-9 2nd
2018 Vance Joseph 6-10 3rd
2017 Joseph 5-11 4th
2016 Gary Kubiak 9-7 3rd
2015 Kubiak 12-4 1st, won Super Bowl

The Broncos traded multiple first-round picks to the Seahawks for Wilson and signed him to a five-year and more than $240 million dollar contract. However, Wilson had the worst statistical season of his career in 2022. That included a career lows in completion percentage (60.5) and touchdowns (16). His 11 interceptions tied for the second most of his career.

Payton had success working with Drew Brees in the twilight of his career, so perhaps he can recreate the same success with Wilson.

Payton took over as Saints coach the year Brees was signed in free agency. There was virtually no adjustment period. They stepped in and immediately created one of the league’s most prolific offenses. 

In 2005, the year prior to Payton’s arrival, the Saints scored 235 points, second-to-last in the NFL. One year later they  finished fifth in scoring. Two years later, they led the league, and for the rest of Payton’s tenure (12 seasons), New Orleans finished outside the top 15 in scoring once. 

Brees’ improvement under Payton was just as drastic. After five solid years in San Diego, including two winning seasons as the starter, Brees was considered by many to be damaged goods after taking 27 sacks in 2005 and suffering shoulder problems throughout his early career.

Then he teamed up with Payton in New Orleans and changed his narrative to probably Hall of Famer. In his Saints first season, he set a career-high in passing yards (a league-leading 4,418). In Year 2, he set a career-high in touchdowns (28). And in Year 3, he broke both career highs and led the league with 5,069 yards and 34 touchdowns.

How would Brees and Payton top that feat in their fourth season together? With a Super Bowl victory, the first and only in New Orleans’ history. 

The 2022 Broncos finished dead last in scoring, but perhaps Payton is exactly what Wilson needs to help bring out his best. Just as Payton once did for Brees and the Saints.

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