What happens if Broncos, Sean Payton find common ground in interview?


The Sean Payton Sweepstakes is on.

The Broncos interviewed Payton in Los Angeles on Tuesday for their head-coaching vacancy, league sources confirmed to The Post. In the process, Denver became the first team to meet with him in person during this coaching cycle and the second to talk with him this week as the former New Orleans coach weighs a return to the sideline.

Payton coached the Saints from 2006-21 and compiled a 153-89 record. He won a Super Bowl in February 2010 and helped quarterback Drew Brees solidify a Hall of Fame resume along the way before resigning after the 2021 season, a year after Brees retired.

Payton interviewed virtually with Houston on Monday and said on FOX earlier that day that he planned to travel to New York late in the week to meet with Carolina owner David Tepper. Arizona, which just finalized a general manager hire, also has permission to interview Payton. That lineup combined with the unique circumstances of Payton’s contract situation — New Orleans has his rights through 2024, meaning any team that wants to hire him has to send something to the Saints for him — make this an uncommon, multi-team dance.

Payton said Monday during an interview on “The Herd” that he thought the compensation would end up being equivalent to a mid or late first-round draft pick and said, “there are a lot of ways to arrive at that,” as teams have different sets of draft picks.

The Broncos have San Francisco’s 2023 first-rounder, which will end up in the late-20s at best and could be as low as No. 31 if the 49ers win the Super Bowl.

Late last week, New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis told reporters in New Orleans the franchise had a duty to maximize its return for Payton.

“It’s complicated. Because, look, I have such great respect for (Payton). He’s a close friend of mine,” Loomis said. “He’s a great coach. All those things. And I want the best for him. I do. We do, collectively as an organization. He gave everything he could possibly give to the New Orleans Saints and took us to heights that the organization and team never achieved before. So, I absolutely want the best for him.

“But I also recognize that he’s a valuable asset, his contract is a valuable asset to our club, and it’s our duty to maximize that. Look, I think between the quarterback … or a head coach, no one impacts winning more than those two guys in any building. So, I know what he brings to the table and I know that’s really valuable. And it’s our obligation to maximize that value if he chooses to coach again within that time frame where we have those rights.”

Bidding teams know, too, however, that the value New Orleans can get for Payton will drop next year if he doesn’t take a job this offseason. Payton appears motivated to get back to coaching this year.

“We have to have the compensation settled before they can actually make an offer to hire him,” Loomis said.

It all sets up for a high-stakes stretch if the Broncos decide to pursue him. Denver could push forward the conversation with the Saints after talking with Payton on Tuesday, but they do have interviews slated for Thursday and Friday with San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, respectively. Not only that, but would Loomis want to hold out to see how Payton’s other interviews go this week and what those teams may be willing to trade? Payton has veto power in the sense that he can tell Loomis he’ll only go to one team or he’ll only consider a subset of those interested.

Ultimately, all sides will have to be on the same page.

“He’s got a job to do as the general manager with the Saints,” Payton said of Loomis. “He’ll get the right compensation and I’m sure the (acquiring) team, if it gets that far, will arrive at it.”

Payton has said multiple times in recent weeks that a franchise’s ownership ranks near the top of his priority list. The Broncos, of course, have an ownership group that just arrived in professional sports in August when it acquired the franchise but is also the wealthiest in the NFL.


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