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BREAKING: Broncos agree to terms with the Saints to acquire Sean Payton as their next head coach

Zac Stevens Avatar
January 31, 2023

The Denver Broncos swung for the fences and smashed a grand slam.

On Tuesday, the Broncos agreed to terms with Sean Payton for him to become Denver’s next head coach, DNVR has learned.

After firing Nathaniel Hackett near the end of an “embarrassing” and “unacceptable” season, in which the team with playoff aspirations finished 5-12, Greg Penner and the Broncos’ ownership set out to do whatever it took to get the coach they wanted, with a report stating Denver would be “ultra aggressive” in their search.

That’s exactly what the Walton-Penner ownership group did.

DNVR confirmed Denver will send their 2023 first-round pick, No. 29 overall, and a 2024 second-round pick to the Saints in exchange for Payton and a 2024 third-round pick.

Greg Penner, Condoleezza Rice and George Paton first met with Payton for an in-person interview on Tuesday, Jan. 17 in Los Angeles. After, Payton interviewed with the Panthers and Cardinals with no deal materializing with either team.

One reason why the deal didn’t materialize shortly after the season ended was because the Broncos not only had to negotiate with Payton himself, but also with the New Orleans Saints since they owned his rights through the 2024 season. It was reported Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was looking for two first-round picks in exchange for Payton.

The Broncos, Saints and Sean Payton have been talking for two weeks with numerous interactions to get the deal done, DNVR learned.

Payton spent 15 years as the Saints head coach beginning in 2006 when New Orleans hired him away from the Dallas Cowboys, where he was the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. From 2006 to 2021, Payton led the Saints as their head coach, outside of 2012, when he was suspended for the entire year due to New Orleans bounty scandal known as “Bountygate.”

In his 15 seasons as the Saints’ head coach, Payton complied a 152-89 regular season record, including seven NFC South Championships and nine playoff appearances. He posted a 9-8 postseason record, including winning Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season. Following the 2021 season, when the Saints missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, Payton stepped down as New Orleans’ head coach and joined Fox as a studio analyst.

Payton, 59, is the Broncos’ first coach with previous head coaching experience since they hired Gary Kubiak in 2015. Denver’s three previous head coaches — Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Nathaniel Hackett — were all first-time coaches.

The Broncos haven’t made the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50 following the 2015 season and haven’t had a winning season since finishing 9-7 in 2016. In order to help turn the Broncos around, Payton’s biggest task will be turning Russell Wilson around.

Following the blockbuster trade to acquire Russell Wilson last year, Wilson’s debut season in Denver did not go as planned. The nine-time Pro Bowler had a career-worst completion percentage (60.5), passer rating (84), QBR (37) and record (4-11) along with a career-low passing touchdowns (16) and the most sacks in his career (55).

Payton helped groom Drew Brees into a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame quarterback during their 14 years together in New Orleans. In their time together in New Orleans, Brees led the NFL in passing yards six times, led the NFL in passing touchdowns three times and had a passer rating north of 100 nine different seasons.

In the past eight seasons, Denver hasn’t been in the top half of the league in points per game. In all but one season (2021) during his time with the Saints, Payton guided New Orleans to a top-12 offense in terms of points per game.

The Walton-Penner group set out to make a splash with their coaching hire. By landing Payton, they not only got one of the biggest names on the market, but one of the best offensive minds the NFL has ever seen.


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