Where are Cardinals, Chargers, other potential Sean Payton suitors picking in 2023 draft?

Where are potential Sean Payton suitors picking in the 2023 NFL draft? Let’s check the latest draft order projections and talk shop:

Week 12 is in the books and the 2023 NFL draft order projections have updated, so it’s as good a time as any to speculate on which teams might be in the hunt for Sean Payton — and what the New Orleans Saints could gain should he move on to a new team in a few months.

But let’s start with the Saints. They traded their 2023 first round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles so they could get another first rounder in 2022 (which became left tackle Trevor Penning), and right now that draft choice is projected to fall at No. 6 overall. That gives the Super Bowl-contender Eagles a highly valuable draft pick which the Saints could dearly use.

The good news is the Saints could end up with a high first rounder of their own should Payton be traded to a new team in 2023. Some franchises have already been linked to his interests, and others make sense as long-shot suitors, so let’s take a look at where each of them are slotted in:

Nebraska hires former Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who went 2-3 vs. Saints

Nebraska hired former Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who went 2-3 against the Saints, saving Carolina a lot of money they can put towards chasing Sean Payton:

It didn’t take long for Matt Rhule to land on his feet. The Nebraska Cornhuskers introduced Rhule as their new head coach on Saturday, bringing the former Carolina Panthers coach into the fold — saving Panthers owner David Tepper a big chunk of the $40 million he would have owed Rhule after firing him earlier this year.

So what has this got to do with the New Orleans Saints?

Rhule went 2-3 against the Saints in his time with Carolina (and 11-27 overall), upsetting them twice in Charlotte. Tepper isn’t hurting from cash, but shaving those salary offsets from Rhule’s contract should make it a little easier for him to offer Sean Payton a blank check in a few months. Payton has reportedly expressed his disinterest in the Panthers job, but you never know. It would give the Saints a lot of leverage in negotiating Payton’s trade to another team if Carolina were putting more assets on the table.

But good for Rhule, who had more experience at the college level with Baylor and Temple than in the NFL. It’ll be fascinating to see who the Panthers end up hiring as their next head coach and to what degree they pursue Payton. If anything’s certain, it’s that more changes are on the way for the NFC South.

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Sean Payton linked to Chargers as potential head coach

By all accounts, Sean Payton wants to coach the Chargers.

By all accounts, Sean Payton wants to coach the Chargers.

Rumors have been swirling for weeks about the link between Payton and Los Angeles. But an ESPN article released on Wednesday has accelerated the rumblings, going as far as to say that Payton “circling around the Chargers” is one of the league’s “worst-kept secrets.”

The article, written by Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler, suggests that Brandon Staley could be on the hot seat if the Bolts miss the playoffs. Currently, at 5-5, L.A. is one game out of the playoff picture with two games against AFC playoff teams still on the schedule.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise: Staley was hired as a defensive head coach, and his defense has not performed to expectations. He seems to have erred on his offensive coordinator hire and has changed his ideology on fourth down.

As for Payton, Graziano and Fowler floated the possibility that the former Saints coach would “wait that one out,” suggesting that if Staley isn’t fired after this season, Payton would take another year off and monitor the situation.

The reasoning is fairly simple: the Chargers have, by far, the most talent of any team whose coaching job might come open. That starts with Justin Herbert, and Graziano says in the article that he has the “sense” that Payton will want a job with a stable quarterback situation.

Again, this makes sense: Payton just retired to avoid a tenuous quarterback situation in New Orleans. His possible return to coaching seems to be more about winning rings than finding the next generation’s superstar signal-caller.

Of note, Graziano and Fowler also mentioned the Cardinals as a possible Payton destination. Arizona is 4-7, seem to have terrible team chemistry, and Kliff Kingsbury’s job has been subject to the rumor. This could make Sunday’s matchup with Arizona a “Payton Bowl” of sorts.

The key thing to remember here is that any team that wants to hire Payton will need to compensate both him and the Saints, who still hold his rights under his contract. Since Payton retired and was not fired, he technically has to be traded to any new team he’d like to coach for. What that trade looks like is unclear, but many around the league believe the asking price will be around a first-round pick. This brings us to the key question about Payton and the Chargers: would the Spanos family be willing to pay up?

Ultimately, I think yes. The Spanoses are cheap, we know this. But they’re also businessmen. The writing on the wall is clear: hiring Payton gives the team a real chance to gain a sizable foothold in L.A., especially with the Rams on the decline with rumors of Sean McVay and Aaron Donald retiring. It’s a huge opportunity to make back the money and assets you’d spend on hiring Payton.

If you think that the Chargers should avoid paying such assets, Graziano and Fowler also mention former Colts head coach Frank Reich, 49ers defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans, Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, and Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, among others, as candidates generating real buzz.

Cardinals a potential coaching destination for Sean Payton

If the Cardinals decide to fire Kliff Kingsbury, Sean Payton is expected to be in the mix to replace him.

The Arizona Cardinals are in the middle of a very disappointing season. Entering the year with playoff expectations, they are 4-7 and it feels like things are starting unravel.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury, although he signed a five-year extension earlier this year, is viewed as being on the hot seat. Should the Cardinals decide to fire him, Sean Payton, the former head coach of the New Orleans Saints who retired last year, could be in play as a candidate to replace him.

According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the Cardinals are a potential Payton destination.

It isn’t the only place. If the Los Angeles Chargers move on from Brandon Staley, they could be Payton’s preferred spot. The Carolina Panthers will likely also be interested.

But that is a lot of ifs. The Cardinals would have to move on from Kingsbury, Payton would have to be interested and then, because he is still technically under contract with the Saints through 2024 and, should a team want to hire him before then, the Saints would expect some compensation.

It is something to watch over the next few weeks if the Cardinals do not turn things around.

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ESPN links Sean Payton to potential Chargers, Cardinals head coach openings

Neither the Chargers nor the Cardinals have fired their head coach, but ESPN linked Sean Payton to both jobs — if they open up:

“Silly season” surrounding the annual coaching carousel is in full swing across the college football landscape, and it’s starting to bleed over into the NFL. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano reports new information on a couple of teams that have caught the attention of former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. Payton stepped down early this year but is already eyeing opportunities in 2023, and at least one of them might be a worst-case scenario for the Saints.

Fowler lists the Los Angeles Chargers as one team commanding Payton’s attention, saying that “Some around the league believe he would wait that one out (if the Saints would trade his rights, of course).” Payton’s coaching rights are tied to the Saints for 2023 and 2024, and his trade value diminishes the longer he’s away from the NFL ranks. If the Chargers give Brandon Staley another year and Payton waits until the job opens up in 2024, the Saints wouldn’t have any shot at recouping a first-round pick in the coming draft and any compensation they eventually get will be undervalued.

So that’s troubling. On the other hand, Fowler’s colleague at ESPN, Graziano, adds that the Arizona Cardinals are on Payton’s radar — with the caveat that, “again, assuming there’s an opening there.” It’s not too surprising, though, given that the Chargers are sitting at 5-5 with the Cardinals not far behind at 4-7. Both of them have young quarterbacks under contract for the foreseeable future, and as Graziano said, “People would line up to coach Justin Herbert if that job came open.” Kyler Murray is an accomplished passer too, and both teams fit the bill of warm-weather locales with promising quarterbacks. It makes sense that Payton would be interested.

But neither job is open yet. The Cardinals signed Kliff Kingsbury to a long-term extension earlier this year, and the Chargers are only halfway through Staley’s second season at the helm. If these are the two teams Payton is focused on (and he’s expected to receive many other offers), we might not see any movement in 2023. He could happily stay in the FOX Sports studio with his best friend Jay Glazer and wait for the right opportunity to present itself. We’ll just have to see how this plays out, so stay tuned.

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Peter Schrager says Sean Payton gave the Saints a pep talk before Raiders blowout

NFL Network host Peter Schrager says Sean Payton gave the Saints a pep talk before they beat the Raiders, their only win in five games:

Well this isn’t what you want to hear. NFL Network host Peter Schrager was a guest on the Bill Simmons Podcast this week, and he shared a nugget about the New Orleans Saints — who have won just a single game out of their last five matchups, which Schrager credits to a surprise “pep talk” from former Saints head coach Sean Payton ahead of their 24-0 blowout win against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8.

“But I’ll tell you what’s interesting about (the Saints), I don’t know that it was reported at the time but I can say it now,” Schrager began. He continued, chuckling, “Sean Payton popped in because he had something to do in New Orleans, and like gave them a pep talk that week, they won 24-nothing. And then Sean Payton leaves, and it’s like, maybe the worst thing he could have done was give them a taste of the Sean Payton magic. Because they won 24-nothing once he lit a fire under their asses, he called out the defense, then he goes back to L.A. where he’s living in Manhattan Beach or wherever, they’re back to not being able to stop or score any points, you know?”

It had been reported that Payton visited the facility to catch up with old friends, but this is the first we’ve heard of him addressing the team. It’s a really bad look for Dennis Allen that the only game his team has won over the last month came after his old boss spent a few hours in the facility. Maybe Payton was doing him a favor in hyping up the squad for a game against the franchise that once fired Allen as head coach.

Regardless of anyone’s motivations here, this report doesn’t do much to help quiet the narrative of Allen working as a substitute teacher while Payton is on hiatus. Odds are Payton won’t return to New Orleans once he’s ready to coach again, even though the Saints might try and move mountains to win him back. But incidents like this only make it harder to tell what’s really going on, and to guess at what might be up next. We’ll just have to wait and see how things develop as the Saints finish out their season.

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Opinion: Saints shouldn’t delay inevitable severance with Dennis Allen

We’ve seen enough. The Saints shouldn’t delay an inevitable severance with Dennis Allen. They have the means and enough reason to move on right now:

I’ve seen enough: it’s time for the New Orleans Saints to move on from Dennis Allen. His team hasn’t improved over 10 games to start their season — if anything, they’re losing each week in the exact same manner they started what’s looking like a doomed campaign. When he was coaching the Raiders, Allen went 4-12 twice, then lost his first four games before being fired. He’s on the same path this year with a team largely agreed to be more talented than those he once inherited.

Allen is returning the same results now that he did a decade ago with the Raiders with a penalty-rife team that can’t consistently play well on offense, defense, or special teams. This team was built on the strength of Allen’s defense, which has collapsed without him being able to fine-tune it after his promotion to head coach. The offense has disappointed, and a typically-stout special teams unit has been one of the NFL’s worst despite little change over previous years.

If they couldn’t take care of business against a two-win Pittsburgh Steelers squad starting a rookie quarterback with a bum ankle, which teams can they defeat?

There’s no use waiting around to find out. They aren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, and that’s not going to happen for a while considering how bad the other NFC South teams are, but the Saints would be 0-3 against those same teams if not for a last-second blocked field goal in Week 1. Allen isn’t going to be the Saints head coach for 15 years like Sean Payton was. Whether he’s dismissed this week, in a few months, or in a year or two, this story ends with the Saints showing him the door. He hasn’t earned any benefit of the doubt in these results, or faith that we’ll see a major turnaround.

And if they’re smart, the Saints won’t delay the inevitable. Here’s how it could happen:

Sean Payton has some nerve eyeing free agent-to-be Lamar Jackson

Sean Payton has some nerve intimating about free agent-to-be Lamar Jackson

Oh, come on. There’s a whirlwind of speculation surrounding former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, and where he’ll return to coach in a year or two. Payton isn’t going to be free to entertain all offers, seeing as he’s still under contract with the Saints through 2024, but it’s about as close to free agency as someone in his position would reach. And he’s already looking at his options.

During his appearance on Monday night’s simulcast with Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, Payton was asked about Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson — someone the Saints were tightly connected to ahead of the 2018 NFL draft, and who Payton had singled out as a quarterback he respected highly coming out of Louisville, having praised Jackson’s leadership and playmaking ability.

To which Payton coyly responded that, “He has a chance to be a free agent, and I have a chance to be a free agent.”

Now, it’s more complicated than that. Jackson will almost assuredly not reach free agency without first receiving the franchise tag from Baltimore. Any team that hires Payton in the spring must trade compensation back to New Orleans. So while Payton may or may not be intimating anything here, it’s really difficult to see a scenario where he and Jackson end up working together.

But that’s beside the point. Payton some real nerve in even suggesting a teamup when he chose to not draft Jackson back in 2018. Instead, he made a foolish trade up the board targeting Marcus Davenport as the one-missing-piece the Saints needed to win another Super Bowl. Needless to say that championship win didn’t materialize, and Davenport has never reached his potential in New Orleans. The point is that Payton had a golden opportunity to get a franchise quarterback he believed in, chose not to do that, and now he’s kicked back chatting with Peyton Manning about his career options. If he likes Jackson so much, why didn’t he draft him? It’s almost appalling.

So, hey, we’ll see whether or not anything comes of this (it’s unlikely anything will). Shooting the breeze with an old peer on a Monday night isn’t exactly laying the groundwork for moves that would shift the NFL’s landscape. But it’s awful frustrating to see Payton even joking about his next opportunities when he left the Saints in such a sorry state. Hopefully things turn around soon.

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Sean Payton to make guest appearance on ManningCast of Saints-Ravens game

Sean Payton to make guest appearance on ManningCast of Saints-Ravens game

Now this will be interesting. Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions company announced that former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will make a guest appearance on their Monday night coverage of the Saints’ home game with the Baltimore Ravens, hosted by Manning and his younger brother Eli — following earlier appearances by the musician Luke Bryan and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

We’ve seen Payton offer his take on the Saints each week with the FOX Sports NFL pregame show, but this is the first time fans will catch his live reaction to his old team during a game. The jovial “ManningCast” has proven popular with viewers in offering a more casual take on prime-time games each Monday night, so much so that it’s now featured on ESPN2 while the primary feed is shown on ESPN (helmed, of course, by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth). Hopefully the Saints play well enough that his reaction is worth watching.

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Analysis: Saints see struggles in replacing a franchise quarterback

Analysis: Saints experiencing the struggles in replacing a franchise quarterback, via @MaddyHudaK_94:

The New Orleans Saints have plenty of self-inflicted wounds that contribute to their 2-5 start, and the magnitude of injuries can’t be ignored. The dispiriting losses are piling up, and it’s hard to know what the team would be if they had even half their missing starters. Decimating injuries are an unfortunate, unavoidable part of football. Replacing a longtime franchise quarterback, however, awards more control – should a team decide to take it.

It was almost unfathomable to imagine life after Drew Brees, and history warned that leaving that decision in the hands of the quarterback is not without lasting consequences. Injuries became insurmountable last season, but the Saints somehow remained in postseason contention until the final hour. They appeared to have broken the mold. We’re now seeing how much of that had to do with Sean Payton – and how irreplaceable a tandem like Brees and Payton truly is.

It’s a notion that seems obvious, but there was valid reason to assume a sense of consistency following both their departures. At quarterback, the Saints managed a carousel of four last season and pulled off a winning record. They were missing top players in Michael Thomas and Wil Lutz – who weren’t included in their NFL record for fielding the most starters in a season. The ripple effects of the pandemic on the salary cap led to the departure of key players: Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, Malcolm Brown, Janoris Jenkins, Emmanuel Sanders.

The re-signing of Jameis Winston seemingly solved the question mark under center, and Dennis Allen made sense to lead the new team era with continuity. As of Week 8, Winston appears to be benched, not due to injury. That’s a bit more alarming when you consider how hard the team pushed to sign Deshaun Watson despite the consequences off-field. Frankly, it doesn’t feel like they settled the position heading into this season. Nor did there seem to be any contingency plan for life after Drew Brees.