(Audacy Sports) Saints coach Sean Payton hasn't committed to returning to New Orleans yet for the 2022 season, which has sparked all sorts of rumors.
It appears that the most likely route, if he does leave the Saints, would be to retire and take a job in the media until he wants to coach again. Fox Sports is reportedly interested in Payton as a potential replacement for top color analyst Troy Aikman, if the latter joins Amazon full-time.
But what are Payton’s other options if he doesn't want to lead the Saints but does want to still coach?
He has three more years left on his $45-million contract, making him one of the highest-paid head coaches in the league.
If he doesn't want to coach the Saints, he could request a trade. Yes, coaches have been traded in the past and it would be a way for him to get out of New Orleans while under contract.
That scenario seems the least likely to happen, but it isn't impossible. If it did happen, which teams would make the most sense to pursue Payton via trade? Let's take a look.
Payton and the Cowboys have been linked for many years. Payton has ties to the organization, having served as an assistant head coach under Bill Parcells before he became the Saints' head coach. He has constantly been rumored as a potential replacement in Dallas, as recently as in 2019 after the team fired Jason Garrett.
Mike McCarthy is still the head coach of the Cowboys, but owner Jerry Jones has been careful in his public comments lately and hasn't definitively stated that McCarthy will return in 2022. However, Jones' son, executive vice president Stephen Jones, has said McCarthy will be back.
If the Cowboys were to move on from McCarthy, acquiring Payton could be an ideal scenario, but the question is would they pay up for him? It would cost the Cowboys picks and money. Payton makes more than McCarthy’s $6-million annual salary, which could deter Dallas, but if the Cowboys don't believe in McCarthy, Payton should be their guy.
The moment news broke Sunday that Payton hasn't committed to returning to the Saints, Bears fans immediately flocked to Twitter to try and manifest Payton to their team. Chicago has interviewed 10 candidates for its head coaching vacancy already, but none have the pedigree of Payton, who has had sustained success as a head coach for 15 years.
Payton could help 22-year-old quarterback Justin Fields reach his full potential the way he did Drew Brees before. It's worth nothing that previous coaching trades for Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden involved first-round picks. The Bears don't hold a first-round pick in 2022, making any potential deal for Payton a difficult move.
New York Giants
The Giants are in line to have a second interview with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, so the team may have its head coach in place sooner than later. But why not entertain the thought of Payton?
Payton has ties to the Giants, serving as their offensive coordinator from 2000-'03. He's a part of the Parcells coaching tree. The Giants have multiple first-round picks, and the presence of Payton would restore credibility to a franchise that has been floundering in irrelevancy for the last four seasons.
The Cardinals had a disappointing finish to their 2021 season, and it's time to start wondering if Kliff Kingsbury is the right person for the job. Imagine a Cardinals offense with quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins with Payton calling the shots? It could be reminiscent of the Brees-led Saints teams, which any franchise would sign up for.