Sean Payton Should Rebuff Denver Broncos If They Emerge As Top Head Coach Landing Spot

The Denver Broncos are looking for another head coach and Sean Payton is on their radar.

According to a report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano, the Broncos are expected to “at least check” on the former New Orleans Saints head coach, who is expected to make a return to the sidelines in 2023. Payton has shown interest in coaching the Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Cowboys — but there may not be coaching vacancies for either of those spots considering both teams are going to the playoffs.

“Yes, many around the league expect Denver to at least check on Sean Payton and possibly make a major run at him,” says Fowler and Graziano. “While it’s the worst-kept secret that Payton has interest in the Chargers job, Brandon Staley just secured a playoff berth for L.A. with two regular-season games remaining.”

The report isn’t exactly surprising considering Payton would be the top name available on the market next offseason. The 58-year-old completed a remarkable 16-year stint with the Saints, leading them to a Super Bowl win and five 13-win seasons during his tenure in New Orleans.

However, the Broncos are a team lacking draft capital and burdened with the worst contract in all of football — Russell Wilson’s five-year, $243 million deal. By signing on with the Broncos, Payton would be facing an uphill battle just to make this a true playoff team considering the team’s salary cap restraints involving Wilson.

Remember, Payton stepped away from the Saints when they were deep in salary cap purgatory entering the 2022 offseason. It looks like he stepped away at the right time considering New Orleans is a below-average team who will once again face salary cap issues in 2023, seeing that they’ll be nearly $58 million over the cap.

Does Payton really want to step into a situation where he has to salvage a quarterback who clearly looks like he has lost more than a step?

Wilson is currently leading the worst offensive attack in the league (15.5 points per game) and his 35.1 QB rating ranks 29th in the league. He also has just 12 touchdown passes compared to nine interceptions.

The Broncos made one of the worst moves in NFL history when they not only traded two first-round picks and two second-round picks to go along with three key players for Wilson, they made the move look a lot worse by immediately signing him to a major contract extension.

Denver is not escaping Wilson’s contract anytime soon, with the earliest logical out coming during the 2026 offseason when the Broncos can absorb a $31 million dead cap hit by moving on from the struggling quarterback.

CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin broke down how the Broncos could move on from Wilson via release as soon as the upcoming offseason — although it’s hard to envision Denver actually pulling it off.

“Another, the best-case scenario for cutting Wilson, involves converting 2023 salary to a bonus, exercising an option in the QB’s deal, then designating him a post-June 1 release to take roughly a $40M dead-cap hit in 2023, and $67M dead-cap hit in 2024,” said Benjamin. “This would make Wilson’s dead-cap hit comparable to that of Matt Ryan, whose trade to the Colts last offseason left the Falcons paying a record $40.5M for the QB to play elsewhere. This would not immediately save the Broncos any money; in fact, it would still result in a net loss of about $17M in 2023.”

That’s fine if the Broncos were in a rebuilding mode as the Atlanta Falcons were when they moved off of Matt Ryan earlier this year. However, this is a franchise known for winning that has now gone seven consecutive seasons without a postseason berth. It was the reason why they pulled off the Wilson move in the first place and gave him such a large deal without him ever playing in a Denver uniform.

The organization realizes they won’t be able to shed Wilson anytime soon, with general manager George Paton claiming that the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback is “fixable.”

“That wasn’t what it’s all about,” Paton said on Tuesday. “That’s not why we’re getting a new coach—to turn around Russ. It’s about the entire organization. It’s about the entire football team. It’s not just one player. It’s not whether Russ is fixable or not, but we do believe he is. We do.”

Even if the Cowboys and Chargers don’t emerge with coaching vacancies entering the offseason, Payton should play it smart and avoid the Broncos coaching job at all costs.

Denver faces an uphill battle at jumping back into contention as a playoff contender with Wilson at quarterback. There’s little reason for Payton — who has leverage considering his coaching resume — to jump at the Broncos’ coaching job.

Don’t look Denver’s way, Payton.