Broncos reach deal with Saints for Sean Payton

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — The Denver Broncos on Tuesday agreed to a trade with the New Orleans Saints to make Sean Payton the 19th head coach in franchise history, sources told ESPN.

The Saints will receive the 2023 Broncos first-round pick (No. 29 overall) and the 2024 second-round pick for Payton and the 2024 Saints third-round pick, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Broncos are also expected to make Payton one of the highest-paid head coaches in the league.

Because Payton signed an extension with the Saints in 2019 that would run through the 2024 season, the Saints and Broncos had to negotiate compensation for Denver to sign him as head coach.

The Broncos had traded their first-round picks to the Seattle Seahawks to acquire Russell Wilson in last year’s blockbuster trade, but then acquired a first-round pick from the Miami Dolphins in the trade that sent Bradley Chubb to Miami last season. This pick was originally owned by the San Francisco 49ers, who traded the pick to Miami, which allowed them to pick Trey Lance in the 2021 draft.

The trade puts the Saints back in the first round of the 2023 draft. New Orleans traded its 2023 pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in a draft picks trade last year.

Payton, who was the 2006 NFL Coach of the Year, will succeed Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired on Dec. 26, a day after the Broncos’ dismal 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium, which opened up Denver threw back 4-0. 11. The team finished the season 5-12 as interim coach Jerry Rosburg closed out the year.

Payton was 152-89 in his 15 seasons as Saints head coach, including a win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Payton has not coached this season and was an analyst at Fox Sports.

Payton will be tasked with fixing the league’s lowest-scoring offense in 2022 as Wilson finished with a career-low 16 touchdown passes and was sacked the most 55 times of his career. The Broncos have missed the playoffs seven straight seasons and fired three head coaches — Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Hackett — since January 2019.

Kicker Brandon McManus is the only player on the current roster who was in uniform for the Broncos’ last playoff game – their Super Bowl 50 win to close out the 2015 season.

Payton first interviewed Broncos officials on Jan. 17 and was the fifth of eight candidates to be interviewed in the first wave. Before the search began, Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner suggested why someone with Payton’s experience might get the job.

“Obviously the Xs and O’s are important, but we need a strong leader for this organization that’s focused on winning,” Penner said after Hackett was fired. “It starts with the culture. It instills a sense of responsibility and discipline. We need an identity on offense. In the beginning it has to be about culture and leadership. These are the qualities we will focus on the most.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, former Stanford coach David Shaw, former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris and former Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell were all former NFL head coaches who were originally interviewed by the Broncos. 49ers defense coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who is poised to coach the Houston Texans, was the last of the eight candidates interviewed.

Payton’s Saints teams with Drew Brees at quarterback have consistently been among the best in the league on offense. The Saints won at least ten games nine times during his tenure and made the playoffs nine times.

Brees was a 12-time Pro Bowl pick during Payton’s tenure with the Saints, surpassing 4,000 yards passed 12 times and 5,000 yards passed five times. He led the league in passing seven times.

Payton was suspended without pay as a penalty for the 2012 season after a league investigation found the Saints had a bounty program to pay players for hits against opposing players.

This season, the Broncos finished last in the league in scoring (16.9 points per game), finished last in the league in third-down conversion, scored 16 or fewer points in 11 games, and lost nine games in seven or fewer points.

Hackett’s firing put an abrupt end to the shortest tenure by a non-interim head coach in franchise history. Penner had decided after Hackett was fired, “We have to do this right.”

At one point this season, the Broncos had the No. 1 defense and the No. 32 offense. The Broncos’ current playoff drought is also the longest since their early years, when they missed the playoffs between 1960 and 1976.

It’s a far cry from Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen’s three-decade streak as owner, when the Broncos went to more Super Bowls (seven) than they lost seasons. This season also marks the fifth time the Broncos have averaged fewer than 20 points per game in the past seven years. Prior to Hackett’s dismissal, Josh McDaniels served the shortest tenure as the team’s non-interim head coach in the post-AFL/NFL merger era. He was fired in 2010 with four games remaining in his second season on the job. The Broncos were 3-9 when he was fired.

Hackett, 42, was hired with much fanfare last January after serving three seasons as the Green Bay Packers’ offensive coordinator under Matt LaFleur. At the time, Broncos GM George Paton Hackett called a “dynamic leader and coach whose intelligence, innovation and charisma impressed us from the start.”

Shortly after Hackett’s hiring, the Broncos traded five draft picks, including two first-round and two second-round players, and three players for the Seahawks to acquire Wilson. Wilson was signed just before the start of the season on a five-year contract extension worth $245 million. Broncos reach deal with Saints for Sean Payton

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