Sean Payton Trade: Did the Saints Accept the Right Offer From the Broncos?

The New Orleans Saints had two Sean Payton offers on the table from the Denver Broncos. Did they choose the right one?

The New Orleans Saints cashed in on their former head coach Sean Payton’s decision to return to the NFL sidelines in 2023, acquiring draft capital from the Denver Broncos in exchange for Payton’s contractual rights. The Broncos reportedly gave the Saints two trade packages to choose from — did New Orleans pick the right offer?

The Saints Had 2 Sean Payton Offers From the Broncos

Throughout the process of Payton’s potential return, multiple compensation scenarios were thrown around. One report suggested Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was holding out for at least two first-round picks, using the 2002 Jon Gruden-to-Buccaneers trade as a starting point.

In the end, New Orleans didn’t pick up quite that much from Denver, but they still reeled in a solid return. Here’s what the Payton trade looks like:

  • Saints receive: 2023 first-round pick (No. 29), 2024 second-round pick
  • Broncos receive: Payton, 2024 third-round pick

The Broncos didn’t have their own first-rounder to trade, having given up that selection — which ended up being the fifth overall pick — to the Seattle Seahawks in last year’s Russell Wilson trade.

Instead, Denver sacrificed pick No. 29. That selection originally belonged to the San Francisco 49ers before they traded it to the Miami Dolphins as part of their move up for quarterback Trey Lance in the 2021 draft. The Dolphins then dealt the pick to the Broncos for edge rusher Bradley Chubb at last year’s trade deadline.

In sum, Denver essentially traded Chubb — who was scheduled to hit free agency without an extension — and swapped Day 2 picks for Payton, who could be their head coach for the next decade. It’s a deal most teams would feel comfortable executing, especially those in the Broncos’ position.

On the other side of the trade, the Saints did well to play hardball with Denver and come away with a premium selection in return for Payton. However, I can’t help but wonder if New Orleans would have been better off accepting the other offer the Broncos reportedly had on the table:

  • Saints receive: 2023 fourth-round pick (No. 108), 2024 first-rounder
  • Broncos receive: Payton

In this trade, New Orleans would have waited until 2024 to pick up a first-round pick, but they wouldn’t have had to attach any draft selections of their own to the deal.

MORE: List of New Orleans Saints Draft Picks in 2023 NFL Draft

This proposal might have made more sense for the Saints. It’s all guesswork and projection, but there’s a chance the Broncos’ 2024 first-rounder is extremely valuable.

While Denver is unlikely to perform as poorly next season as they did this year, it’s not completely out of the question. Wilson is still the Broncos’ quarterback, and if Payton can’t immediately find a solution for his struggles, Denver’s first-round pick could end up as a very early selection.

The Broncos will likely carry over much of their current roster into 2023. They’ll enter the offseason with less than $10 million in projected cap space, so they might not have the room to make many meaningful additions.

They could create some breathing room through simple contract restructures, but I’m not sure Payton wants to push money into the future and tie himself to this version of the Broncos for any longer than he has to. Without turning over their roster, how much better can Denver be in 2023?

Loomis and the Saints might have been better off banking on the Broncos failing to improve next season and hoping Denver ended up sending a top-10 pick to New Orleans. Unless the Broncos advance to the AFC Championship Game next season (which seems highly unlikely), the Saints would have received a better selection than No. 29 by default.

Of course, New Orleans’ front office isn’t necessarily known for its patience. This is a team that continually lives on the edge of salary cap disaster, trades away future draft capital, and generally lives for the present. The concept of waiting for a potentially more attractive pick in 2024 probably doesn’t hold much appeal for a club that shies away from long-term planning.

If the Broncos do end up struggling again in 2023, the offer the Saints accepted will at least allow them to acquire an early second-round pick from Denver. But if that happens, New Orleans will likely look back and wish it claimed the rights to the Broncos’ first-rounder.

How Will the Saints Use Their New First-Round Pick?

Given their precarious salary cap situation, the Saints have to hit on their early-round picks. Rookie contracts are the lifeblood of any organization, and they’re doubly important for New Orleans, which won’t have many financial resources to go after free agent additions.

The Saints will likely need to find a new quarterback next season, as assistant general manager and college scouting director Jeff Ireland intimated this week. Andy Dalton is a free agent, and while Jameis Winston remains under contract, it doesn’t sound like New Orleans is comfortable moving forward with him as their starter.

MORE: New Orleans Saints Offseason Preview 2023

Whether New Orleans can grab a new signal-caller at the end of the first round remains an open question. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis, and Florida’s Anthony Richardson should all be off the board by then, and there might not be another quarterback worthy of being selected on Day 1.

Elsewhere on the roster, the Saints could also use more help at receiver, where Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry figure to move on. More help at interior offensive line, defensive tackle, and cornerback could also be on the table at pick No. 29.

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