The search will progress this week with a smaller groupDenver starts Week 3 eyeing 2nd-round interviews


As the Broncos prepare to bring a group of head coaching candidates to Denver for the next round of interviews this week, the search appears to have layers yet to unfold.

After an initial round of eight interviews — now seven candidates with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh backing out to remain at his alma mater — the search will progress this week with a smaller group. As of Monday afternoon, though, multiple sources told The Post that the Broncos’ search committee had not finalized a schedule for who might come to town when.

Central to the conversation, of course, is former New Orleans head coach Sean Payton. He completed an initial interview in person with the Carolina Panthers on Monday, multiple outlets reported. Payton also has an initial interview on the books for later in the week with Arizona, according to multiple reports.

Last week, Payton conducted first-round interviews with Denver (in-person) and Houston (virtual).

Sources close to the search believe he’s in line for a second interview with the Broncos, though when exactly remains to be seen. The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans reported Monday that Payton was planning to fly to Denver on Wednesday in anticipation of an interview either that night or Thursday. But the interview with Arizona, if it happens Thursday, could affect that plan.

Payton first met with the Broncos’ search committee — including CEO Greg Penner, general manager George Paton and limited shareholder Condoleezza Rice — on Jan. 17 in Los Angeles.

Any team that wants to hire Payton has to compensate the Saints as he remains under contract with the franchise through the 2024 season. Payton has said the asking price is roughly the equivalent of a mid-first-round pick, while the Times-Picayune reported New Orleans is asking for compensation closer to a 2002 trade for Jon Gruden that featured two first-rounders, two second-rounders and $8 million.

The process, as Payton and New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis have laid out, includes the potential hiring team working out trade compensation with the Saints before formally offering Payton a contract.

At any rate, Monday brought more evidence that Penner and the Broncos search committee is comfortable with the pace of its search.

A year ago, the Broncos interviewed Nathaniel Hackett the Tuesday after the divisional round and also had second interviews arranged with Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and then-Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell later in the week. The Broncos moved quickly to secure Hackett, however, after a report surfaced that he also had a second interview lined up with Jacksonville.

Among Denver’s coaching candidates this time around, only San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is unavailable to interview this week. Ryans’ 49ers won Sunday in the NFC divisional round against Dallas — and Quinn, once again a Broncos coaching candidate — meaning he cannot interview until the bye week between Sunday’s NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl week.


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