The Denver Broncos made a big swing to land the 19th head coach in franchise history, as the team agreed to trade terms with the New Orleans Saints in order to sign Sean Payton. The Broncos will trade their 2023 first-round pick and their 2024 second-round pick for Payton and the Saints’ 2024 third-round pick. Payton also figures to be paid among the top NFL coaches with his new team.
Landing Payton put an end to a head coaching search that was focused on star-caliber names throughout the process. Unable to lure Jim Harbaugh from Michigan, the 59-year-old Payton was an expensive fallback option. It’s clear the new Broncos ownership is going all-in to fix quarterback Russell Wilson after his dismal 2022 season.
Broncos Hire Head Coach Sean Payton
Payton stepped away from the Saints after the 2021 season, citing the need for change after enduring his first year without quarterback Drew Brees since both arrived in New Orleans in 2006. Payton had a successful tenure, winning 152 regular season games and losing only 89. He propelled the Saints to a Super Bowl victory in 2009.
Known best as an offensive innovator, Payton helped bring relevance to a team that had desperately fallen short of mediocrity for much of its existence. He finished no worse than 7-9 in any of his 15 years with Brees. After struggling to build a decent defense for much of his tenure in New Orleans, Payton finally had three straight years with a top-11 scoring unit in his final three seasons.
The Broncos are hoping for Payton to pick up where he left off in New Orleans and revitalize Denver’s own aging quarterback. The Broncos offer Payton a talented defense that finished seventh in yards allowed and 14th in points allowed. But the offense was dead last in points and clearly sandbagged a tremendous defensive unit that was led by coordinator Ejiro Evero.
Rebuilding Wilson will ultimately define Payton’s legacy in Denver. The 34-year-old QB was awful last year after the franchise traded three players, two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a fifth-round pick for Wilson and a fourth-round pick. They compounded the error by hiring Nathaniel Hackett as head coach and extending Wilson with a massive five-year, $242.5 million deal that can’t be reasonably shed until after the 2024 season.
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Before Tuesday’s breaking trade news, it had seemed as though Payton failed to earn a head coaching offer this offseason. He had interviewed with every team with an opening, including the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, and Indianapolis Colts. But he hadn’t interviewed again with the Broncos, and the buzz around him had died.
Was Payton simply chasing a massive payday from the Broncos’ deep-pocketed new owners, or does he truly believe Wilson is fixable? We’ll find out whether Wilson can get back to a respectable level of play quickly in 2023, as the team surely expects to compete in the loaded AFC. As part of the trade package to secure Payton, Denver sent the first-round pick they acquired from the Miami Dolphins for Bradley Chubb at the NFL trade deadline, plus their own second-round pick.
Landing a Super Bowl-winning head coach is always notable, even with the heavy draft-pick cost. At least the team shrewdly moved Chubb for a high return, so the deal isn’t backbreaking if you consider it as reassigning the pick.
The Saints certainly benefit from the deal considering Payton wasn’t going to coach under Mickey Loomis’ reign any longer. Getting two early-round picks for him while the team retools its roster is a coup.